Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday said loan waiver these days had become a "fashion", but later clarified his remarks were "misinterpreted" after attack from opposition parties.
Speaking at India's largest municipal bond programme in Mumbai, Naidu said: "If there is a need of money we shall give loan… the banks will give loans. But now there is a fashion of waiving (farm) loans."
"Whose loan is this? Whose money is it? It is not the money of the banks, it is your money. If we write off loans here we have to pay there," the BJP leader said.
Naidu's remarks came a day after the Karnataka government announced waivign of cooperative bank loans of farmers amid growing farm unrest in the country.
Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Punjab too have announced loan waivers.
Farmers in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have asked the government to write off their loans and to give a good price for their produce.
Criticising Naidu's statement Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury wondered if the central government considered suicides of farmers "fashionable".
"Will this government now say that farmer suicides are also fashionable? We need to do more than loan waiver, not mock farmers," Yechury said in a tweet.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Naidu's statement exposed the government's bias towards the rich.
"You don't see 'fashion' in it when you waive loans of the rich, but when it comes to waiving farmer loans you call it 'fashion'. This is not right," Kejriwal told reporters.
He said this approach of the Bharatiya Janata Party shows what kind of politics it is engaged in.
Congress leader Randeep S. Surjewala condemned Naidu's remarks saying that he should not have made such statement when the situation in Madhya Pradesh was volatile after the killing of five protesting farmers in police firing in Mandsaur.
"Farmers are committing suicide and he (Naidu) is saying it has become a fashion," he said.
"He should have avoided mocking at the farmers," he added.
Naidu later said his remarks were misinterpreted.
"I was speaking in the context of addressing infrastructure problems, including farmer problems," Naidu clarified.
"I wanted to say we aren't addressing issues in the long term but the short term," the BJP leader added.
Earlier in Mumbai, Naidu said the loan waivers are not a final solution.
"It (loans) should be waived in extreme conditions. It (loan waiver) is not the final solution," he emphasised.
"You have to take care of the system and you have to make people farmers that they should get revenue to price… they should be taken care in distress," he said.