The famous Sanskrit proverb—Vinaashakale Vipareeta Budhhi—essentially means that when one approaches his end, the intellect turns weak and whatever he does become the opposite of what he should be doing ideally. For embattled Indian drinks mogul, Vijay Mallya, once the poster boy of all that symbolized wealth, success and King-size life full of luxury for Indians, the proverb holds crucial importance at this stage of his life.
Because that is precisely what Mallya is doing now.
In an interview to Sunday Guardian on 12 March, Mallya reemphasized that he is not an absconder, he respects the Indian laws and he left the country on a personal visit. Further, Mallya, said he has the best intentions and explained how loan defaults are part of any businesses. Till here, his statements give enough room for his sympathizers to argue in his favour and blame media for the hysterical frenzy.
True, both the success and failure are indeed part of any businessman’s life, and it doesn’t mean, that man is an outlaw. After all, no Indian court has convicted him as a criminal, yet. But then came the spoiler. What Mallya said next, when the reporter asked whether he will return to India, is something that can permanently seal his fate —his bad times - in the Indian soil as an outlaw. “I’m not sure I’ll get a fair chance to present my side. I’ve already been branded as criminal. I do not feel the time is right…But I hope that I return one day,” Mallya said.
“I will return one day”, if one loosely translates, would mean that “I’m not very keen to return at all. Maybe I'll give a try after a long time or may be never. In the near future? Forget it”.
The problem is that Mallya hopes to return “one day” and his feeling that “time is not right now” is at a stage when the Indian Enforcement Directorate has summoned him on 18 March in connection with a loan default case, the Supreme Court has issued a show cause notice on him on banks’ petition and a Hyderabad Court has issued a non-bailable warrant against Mallya.
That apart, the cases against him set to be heard later this month in Bangalore Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) and there are investigations currently on by agencies including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) related to his loan defaults to various Indian banks. If Mallya doesn’t return to face the law of the land this month, Mallya will be confirming to the authorities, the shareholders (and the media) that he has indeed fled the country and has little faith in the Indian laws, contrary to what he claimed.
There are a few reasons why Mallya should pack his seven bags immediately and get on the next flight back to India:
One, charges against Mallya are serious, beyond the Rs 9,000 crore loan default by his grounded Kingfisher airline to lenders. It does not merely pertain to a case where a company defaults to a few banks any longer. Theoretically, there are companies in India, which owe much larger amounts to banks. Mallya’s case is unique since there are allegations that the once ‘King of Good Times’ diverted the bank money to other activities not for the originally stated use, engaged in financial irregularities, evaded tax and kept flashing his wealth power publicly even when Kingfisher staff has still unpaid dues and banks are sitting ducks.
Mallya has furnished a personal guarantee to banks against the loans he has drawn, making him personally accountable to the default and necessitating him pay back from his personal wealth. Three large banks —SBI, PNB and UBI -- have tagged him as a wilful defaulter (although he managed to get one bank, UBI, reverse its decision). Mallya’s offer for one time settlement of loans has clearly failed to impress banks evident from their move of approaching the court to seek his arrest, impound his passport and even claim his $75 million (about Rs500 crore) severance pay Diageo offered him as part of a non-compete agreement.
Two, Mallya is also a Member of Indian Parliament. According To reports (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Mallya-left-on-diplomatic-passport-on-March-2/articleshow/51366420.cms), Mallya left the country using his diplomatic passport given to him in the capacity of a Parliamentarian. As a responsible member of Parliament, it is even more critical for the man to honor the law of the land and do not create a situation where he is officially tagged as an absconder, acting in a fashion that doesn’t suit a Parliamentarian, thus forcing his exit from the house on charges of unethical practices.
Three, if Mallya doesn’t return now and force courts to go for extreme measures against him, Mallya will be throwing mud on his handful of sympathizers, who are still passionate about his stature as a global businessman and ‘son of the soil’. Former Prime Minister and JDS Supremo, H D Deve Gowda, has openly supported Mallya saying he is the ‘son of Karnataka soil’ and Mallya might be abroad on business, a claim Mallya himself refuted when he said he is on a personal visit to UK with a friend and is forced into hiding.
The bottom line is this: If there is any merit in Mallya’s arguments that he didn’t flee and is currently being subjected to a media trial for baseless reasons, he should be immediately taking the next flight back to India, face the law and settle the dues with banks from his personal wealth (going by a Firstpost calculation, Mallya still have approximately Rs 7,000 crore worth of shares in various companies and real estate properties in the prime locations across the world).
After all, Mallya is a man once showed Indians how one ‘King’ lives in the modern times. This is a country, in his own words, which made him ‘Vijay Mallya’ and where he is credited for introducing the luxury flying experience to passengers at least for a few years.
The tag of an ‘absconder’ or a ‘fraud’ is the last adjective a ‘King’ would want to attach to his name.