While engaged in a legal battle in London trying every trick to stop his extradition to India, Vijay Mallya has also triggered a political slugfest back home. The business tycoon, wanted for Rs 9,000 crore fraud, claimed he met Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before leaving India and told him about his plan to go to London.
This has given the Congress fresh ammunition to attack the Centre. Adding fuel to the fire is a piece of information that it is the dilution of a lookout notice—from ‘detain’ to ‘inform’—that allowed Mallya to flee unnoticed. If the Centre wanted to score brownie points before the general elections by bringing Mallya to face justice, he is proving to be a handful. Faced with possible jail time in India, Mallya is playing dirty.
The government, also facing flak for the escape of PNB scam-accused Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, is equally desperate to bring Mallya back, especially because it wants to shake off the charge that it let him escape. Jaitley has clarified that the meeting that Mallya spoke about was a chance encounter in Parliament and he had told the businessman to make his offers to the banks he defrauded.
London, why was he not stopped? Why did the CBI downgrade the lookout notice against Mallya just a month after issuing it? Its explanation that it did not consider Mallya a flight risk is not satisfactory. The Congress too has some answering to do. It was during the UPA regime that Mallya borrowed repeatedly from multiple banks. And, it has not answered allegations that banks were arm-twisted to lend to Kingfisher Airlines.
The UK court will deliver the verdict in the extradition case on December 10. It’s possible that Mallya may be allowed to stay on, leaving parties in India to continue their fight. But the fact is people like Mallya are the creation of our political system, where businessmen and politicians have a symbiotic relationship, and no party can escape responsibility.