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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2040

The One Who Flew Away

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

Before his prolonged spell of Good Time turned into Bad Time, the ‘king’ flew away to the safety of England, leaving his creditors and politicians fuming with anger mixed with embarrassment. Thousands of his ex-employees were in a state of utter shock because the chance of receiving their unpaid salaries had receded further with Vijay Mallya leaving the country.

Calling himself an ‘international’ businessman, Mallya refutes the allegation that he had run away from law. That will be tested soon as he has been summoned to appear before the Enforcement Directorate. There must be something very urgent that he had to leave India on March 2 with the promise to be back ‘soon’!

One’s thoughts go out to poor Subrata Roy, the Sahara chief, who is cooling his heels in Tihar jail for his inability to return the money he had received from the public. He must be the most prominent Indian billionaire to be jailed for dodgy practices that are not uncommon among the billionaires in India.

The nation wanted to know if the outrage against Mallya’s Great Escapes was genuine or contrived. How come it took five months for the CBI to realise that its ‘look out’ notice to the Bureau of Immigration, seeking detention of Mallya, was a mistake? Has the CBI proved that even under the new government it remains a ‘caged parrot’?

To many it would be a case of government’s ‘double standards’ when comparing the ease with which the ‘beer baron’ was able to fly out of India when months earlier a Greenpeace activist on way to London for a conference was prevented from boarding a flight. There was no arrest warrant against her. The Greenpeace was nearly banished from India.

The government may not be too much concerned about the flak that it receives over Mallya. It is too much preoccupied at the moment with purging the country of ‘anti-nationals’ and ‘seditious’ elements. The Greenpeace activist was part of a ‘foreign’ organisation that sometimes shows India in a bad light, hence she was liable to be called ‘anti-national’! Lucky, she escaped the ‘sedition’ charge! Mallya, an Independent Member of Rajya Sabha, could not be clubbed in that category having been elected from his home state Karnataka with the help of not only the JD (U) but also the ultra-nationalist BJP. This is not to suggest that he had no friends in the Congress.

In fact, Mallya’s circle of friends is very wide. In a Tweet after his arrival in London he spoke of unnamed people-- politicians, officials and media personalities--who had received ‘favours’ from him. What do you call the well placed ‘ungrateful’ people who are taking up positions against him? Surely, not ‘hypocrites’?

Only a few months ago, the escape of a flamboyant ‘cricket administrator’ sought by the tax men was being discussed heatedly in the country. But what happened? Thanks to a ‘humane’ gesture by his high-placed friends, the man was freely travelling around Europe from his base in London, mocking at those who said he was a ‘fugitive’. He challenged the government to arrest him. The government brazened it out and the issue seems to have died. Rumours have been floating that the man’s connection in high places might help him stage an honourable return to India. Will Láffaire Mallya head the same way?

When the Opposition benches alleged that government had made no effort to stop Mallya from ‘fleeing’, the finance minister, Arun Jaitley, was quick to remind the Congress about (late) Octavio Quattrocchi, the Italian arms dealer whose name had figured during the unending Bofors saga of kickbacks.

The Congress forgot to remind Jaitley that as minister in a previous NDA government he had failed despite frequent travels to different countries to get Quattrocchi back in India for prosecution. One Congress minister had then called Jaitley the Inspector Clouseau of the (previous) NDA government—a bumbling French detective in a series of Hollywood films. Oh! Did they forget to mention Warren Anderson of Union Carbide who flew out after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy? He too is dead.

Mallya’s undetected exit was bound to embarrass the Modi government and the banks who had advanced him Rs 7000 crore in loans with little chance of recovery. The banks have a ready answer to wriggle out of any stigma. They say, and rightly so, that loans—big loans—are offered after due diligence on the basis of the earning potential of the company or the individual receiver of the loan. What perhaps the banks are shy of admitting is that they show no urgency in taking action when signs of default—wilful of otherwise—start to emerge clearly.

But what is Rs 7000 crore worth when in recent years the banks have written off loans reportedly worth Rs 170,000 crore! It might, however, make it even more difficult for the prime minister to credit each Indian’s bank balance with the sum he had promised in his election campaign.

Being an NRI, Mallya will probably not spend sleepless nights at his home in the UK worrying about the moves of his critics and detractors in India. He has already claimed that he had not run away. And he is right. There was no arrest warrant for him when he boarded a Jet Airway flight to London. You can’t arrest a man on the basis of media reports!

Mallya’s controversial flight from India reaffirms how deep cronyism is entrenched in the country. Successive governments have been accused of favoring the rich on a quid pro quo basis. Cronyism begets political clout to the rich and the immunity that comes with it.

There is a long list of politicians of almost all hues who have been accused of ‘loot’ but not many of them have suffered an appreciable loss of following or power. They claim victimhood to earn public sympathy. It is, of course, true that some influential politicians have been sent to jail. But that is more an exception that the rule. They continue to exercise power by nominating one of their family members as their proxy. And the ‘loot’ they were accused of accumulating remains wherever it was.

- Asian Tribune -

Vijay Mallya
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