|Image from here|
Has it happened to you? There you are, paying your outrageously high electricity bill, and wham - a sinking feeling envelops you. You wonder how Vijay Mallya could walk away with crores of unpaid loans when a single unpaid bill can render you to darkness for eternity. Your misery doesn’t end. Because when you are debating dinner choices, Vijay Mallya is perhaps debating which plane to board - a Hawker or a Gulfstream. Let’s face it, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
So you blame your fate and switch on the television to watch a game. But the only game being played is a sport where the CBI, SEBI, and ED are chasing the owner of a defunct Kingfisher Airlines. Once upon a time, Mallya, a Rajya Sabha MP and entrepreneur extraordinaire, straddled the corporate and the sporting world with practiced ease. His passion for all things royal, including horses, was evident at a stud farm in Kanigal where horses are bred for Mallya’s United Racing and Bloodstock Breeders (URBB). Talking of horses, a horse, they say, never runs as fast unless there are other horses to outpace. In February 2016, when banks realized that they had bet on a wrong horse, an unbridled Mallya galloped away to London. He left with multiple bags, equivalent to the luggage of seven passengers. “For 2 people, 7 bags aren’t much. I pack heavy. That’s how I travel,” Mallya neighed.
Once the stallion had bolted, opposition members climbed on a high horse. A Congress spokesperson said, “Mallya has run away from India using the ‘Fair and Lovely’ scheme of the BJP.” The BJP horsed around by saying, “Mallya is Congress’s baby. The UPA pushed banks to give him repeated loans.” Having closed the door after the horse had bolted, the finance minister, Arun Jaitley argued that the government couldn’t have put a cart before the horse because, “that day (March2, when Mallya left) there was no order of any agency to stop him from leaving the country. He left before the banks moved the Supreme Court for seizure of his passport.” The finance minister also gave a stern warning to defaulters to settle their dues or face ‘coercive action’. Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink, right?
In order to squeeze the last pip of our outrage, the television channels showed us old clips where Mallya is canoodling with bikini clad girls and pretty air-hostesses but there was little talk about the bank officials who horsed around with Mallya. Why did they bet on a sick horse? How were the valuations done in a sinking aviation environment? When most airlines were losing money, what business plan was accepted as gospel? And why?
Given that Mallya chase has entered its last leg, Mallya got off from his high horse and offered to pay back Rs 4,000 crores by September,16. He claimed to be an Indian to the core who wants to return home. If buying Gandhi’s wire rimmed spectacles for $ 1.8 million wasn’t enough, Mallya can always say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ to prove his patriotism. Alternatively, he can take a return flight and bring Lalit Modi along.
Let’s not play ponies, but who wants the Trojan to return? He could reveal sleazy details about politicians, bureaucrats, banks and the media being together in bed.
So how do we win the Derby? Well, there is no point outraging in the Parliament when it does not lead to reforms in the financial sector. Bank distress is an old wound. There are many wounded horses listed by Credit Suisse in its report ‘House of Debt’. While the banks are contemplating a response to Mallya’s recent offer, the system will breed more Mallya’s unless the rot is addressed. Moreover, if the banks bargain for less than what is due, it will set off a dangerous precedent. When you and I can't get a small loan approval, imagine the audacity of negotiating with the banks via video-conferencing while sitting in London! What is clear is that Mallya horsed around not because he couldn’t pay but because didn’t want to pay.
That said, the only thing shorter than public memory is public enthusiasm. Once we are done with ‘Mall-liya Bhag-liya’ jokes, we could happily queue up to watch a Bollywood movie called ‘Mallya Returns’. My choice for the title role would be Anil Kapoor. What say?
Also on the Huffington Post.