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Is Vijay Mallya the victim of mentality not quite right?

Hazard an EMI or two to test if an alternate mentality exists

By Upala Sen

  • Published 16.12.18, 1:42 AM
  • Updated 16.12.18, 1:42 AM
Vijay Mallya gestures to the media as he takes a break outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London, on Monday, December 10, 2018
Vijay Mallya gestures to the media as he takes a break outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London, on Monday, December 10, 2018 Image: AP

The High Way

Last week, after it came to be known that the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London had ordered absconding businessman and loan defaulter Vijay Mallya's extradition, our minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari said something. The gist of it: this man paid his dues for the longest time and then came a point when he faced hardship, owing to a setback in business. Okay, so he defaulted, but are we going to call him a fraud, a chor, only for this? Mr Minister rounded it all up with a saintly reprimand, “This mentality isn't right.”

Right mentality

Now, it is for you to figure out whose mentality needs righting. You could even hazard an EMI or two — to test if an alternate mentality exists. For now, suffices to say that Mallya has allegedly defaulted on Rs 9,000 crore in payments to banks. Just to give you an idea, that is exactly how much the Government of India is looking to recover by selling land and real estate properties of debt-ridden Air India. Just to give you another idea, each of those much-talked-about Rafale jets cost Rs 1,660 crore, if we go by the February 2017 statement issued by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group.

Scot-free

The Union finance minister Arun Jaitley obviously is of a different kind of mentality. He reacted to the news of Mallya’s extradition thus: “Great Day for India. No one who cheats India will go scot-free.” "Scot" in its 16th century sense meant tax or fee. In the 1792 satirical Epistle to Lord Macartney, Cornish Poet John Wolcot wrote of the celebrations on the eve of the good lord's departure to China: Such eating and such guzzling every day;/Nothing to pay!/All the Duke's Friends, great Quality and small,/Our great King George, and lovely Queen,/Were entertain'd scot-free I ween;/ Our generous nation doom’d to pay it all.” Enough etymology, back to rhetoric. About Jaitley’s reaction, it’s all very well and we are quaking in our boots except that the man did go scot-free and that too after giving a certain finance minister a heads up in 2016, in Parliament at that.

Don’t force India

But we live in strange equivocal times, when a chor is not a chor, neither is a chowkidar a chowkidar. And the spoken word is but a malleable thing, meaning neither this nor that nor anything in particular. In September, when Mallya first spoke up about his offer to the finance minister to settle with the banks, an outraged Jaitley had said, “The statement is factually false in as much as it does not reflect truth.” Flummoxed by such a reaction, or perhaps just heavily cautioned, Mallya told the media then: “It was a totally innocent statement made by me that I told Jaitley that I was going to London.” This time round, in between Force India updates and Kingfisher promotions, Mallya tweeted: “With respect where have I defrauded Banks? I did not borrow a single rupee. The borrower was Kingfisher Airlines. Money was lost due to a genuine and sad business failure… (sic).” Truth. Innocent. Respect. Genuine. Sad. Is that what you heard? I heard this — Oo La La La Le Oo.

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