TIMES HAVE CHANGED
There is no shame in politics. Pot calling the kettle black is an everyday occurrence in the morally barren world of politics. Otherwise, you think those who opened the public till for Vijaya Mallya…er…Dr Vijay Mallya—Doctor of what? Living life king-size on taxpayers’ money, is it? —to loot from, those who did not lift their little finger to get that money back, with or without interest, will have the gumption to cry foul now that the fallen liquor baron has vamoosed from these shores and is said to be having a good time in one of his various mansions abroad?
Rahul Gandhi, who has literally grown playing in the lap of Uncle Ottavio (Quattrocchi) in his bungalow in south Delhi, ought to have displayed better sense than to cry foul at the “disappearance” of Mallya. For, immediately it revived the memory of the Italian thug who for a long time was stationed in New Delhi as the country’s most favoured middleman, pushing deals in fertilizer plants and pipelines, and in costly defence procurements, with the active connivance of the Italian-born resident in the Prime Minister’s House, no matter whether the Prime Minister was Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi.
Yes, the Narendra Modi government ought to have anticipated the flight of Mallya once it forced the creditors to go after him and other big defaulters. But what is not sufficiently appreciated is that the judiciary did not help matters by providing relief to the high-profile, high-living, low-thinking playboy. Quattrocchi vanished even when there was an arrest warrant and a red-corner notice against him. In the case of Mallya, the judicial process was grinding at a snail’s pace when he upped and fled.
Mallya owes his second term in the Rajya Sabha to Janata Dal(S), which gave him 28 first preference votes; surplus second preference votes came from the BJP. But Mallya is on record saying that his good friend Captain Satish Sharma, part of the furniture in the Gandhi household, had first persuaded him to become an MP. Part of the money for bribing the JMM MPs when Narasimha Rao was facing a tough test in the Lok Sabha was arranged by Sharma from the liquor baron.
In 2002, Mallya was first elected to the Rajya Sabha with the first preference votes of the Congress.
Now, it is hard to say whether the banks gave loans to Mallya’s companies or to Vijay Mallya, the MP. But it must be borne in mind that everyone in government and in the banking sector is expected to accord MPs priority. Being an MP opens doors. That is why tycoons like Mallya spend tens of crores to suffix their names with the two powerful letters, “M” and “P”. Loan to Mallya was given when he had become an MP. When banks began to demand the money back, he took the trouble of buying insurance and became an MP a second time in 2010.
However, he did not reckon with RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and Prime Minister Modi. Both were determined to recover public money. Wilful defaulters now felt obliged to sell off assets in order to pay back. UPA had virtually bankrupted the banking system, saddling it with over Rs 8 lakh crore of stressed assets. The modus operandi was simple. Bank directors and even CMDs were beholden to politicians for appointments and, therefore, disbursed loans at their bidding. Confidants of Finance Ministers in the earlier regimes facilitated huge loans. And also managed to get them restructured/written off. All this has now stopped. Hence, the troubles for Vijay Mallya and his ilk.
Postscript: If Rahul Gandhi is so convinced that the Modi government was behind the flight of Mallya, he needs to answer only one question: Why did Mallya not feel the need to flee when the UPA was in power?
POLITICIANS, SADHUS A NATURAL FIT
The last few days also belonged to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Before we come to the point, let us answer the question about the double-barrelled name that has always puzzled you. The Tamil Nadu-born guru learnt his spiritualism at the feet of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation. Upon branching out on his own, he added the extra “Sri” to his name to avoid confusion with the then better known sitar maestro, the late Ravi Shankar.
The tantalizingly close contest between those who wanted to stop the grand extravaganza on the banks of the Yamuna and those who didn’t, ended in a tie, with Sri Sri getting the nod only at the pain of a huge penalty. The guru did not do himself any favour by blandly refusing to honour the green tribunal’s order. Spiritual men ought not to be seen confronting temporal powers. That erodes faith in the established order. Instead, they should help in its refinement.
Having said that, lamentations about crony Babaism eroding republican values are wholly misplaced. The tribunes of the Congress Party need to shed partisan blinkers to know how their heroes beginning with Nehru had always patronised a variety of god men and god women. Does the name of Shraddha Mata, the attractive god woman the first Prime Minister was so infatuated with that he wrote her romantic letters, ring a bell?
Nehru’s daughter virtually anointed Dhirendra Brahmachari as Rajguru. She was so obsessed with his physique that she raved about it in letters to her American friend, Dorothy Parker. In those letters, however, she lamented that her Rasputin revealed his rustic roots whenever he opened his mouth. It clearly jarred on her refined western sensibilities. Brahmachari conducted business deals from her official residence, and came to own personal aircraft, gun-manufacturing factories, yoga ashrams on land given by her government, etc. For further proof, read Zee TV owner, Subhash Chandra Goel’s recently released biography.
Chandra Swamy was the man to go to all through the Narasimha Rao years. Postings, transfers, deals, et al the Swamy did for a price. In fact, senior Congressmen wanting to curry favour with Rao sought Chandra Swamy’s help.
We can go on and on in this vein. Remember the Baba perched over a tree under whose feet stood the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Balram Jakhar seeking benediction? But suffice it to say that neither Ramdev nor Sri Sri is a new phenomenon.
Nor does it assault our secular values any more than a Shraddha Devi or a Dhirendra Brahmachari did in an earlier era. Editors should not act as tribunes of their politician-patrons.