India's own Richard Branson, Vijay Mallya is in the news of late for all wrong reasons. The liquor baron has taken the banking industry, the regulators and the judicial system for a ride by delaying the repayment of Rs 9,000 crore loans (including interest) taken by his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines. But beyond all the controversies surrounding his financial commitments to banks as an industrialist, Mallya also has the face of a parliamentarian.
So, how has he fared in Rajya Sabha, of which he was a member twice - in 2002 and again in 2010?
The data (on his second term that started in mid-2010 and ending mid-2016) on the website of PRS Legislative shows that Mallya has an attendance of 30 percent. This is against the national average of 78 percent and the state average or the average of the other members from his state (Karnataka) of 68 percent.
The number of debates he participated is nil. The national average for a member is 56.7 and the state average 33.7.
He has asked 216 questions against the national average of 312 and state average of 234. (However, one thing is sure. This is much better than many other celebrities like Rekha, Sachin Tendulkar and Mithun Chakraborty. While Rekha has a 5 percent attendance, Sachin has 7 percent and Mithun 10 percent. Rekha and Mithun have asked nil questions and Sachin seven.)
Of the questions Mallya asked, 29 were starred and 187 unstarred. A starred question is one which gets an oral answer in the House and the member can have supplementary questions. Only 20 such questions are allowed in a day. Unstarred questions get a written reply that is tabled in the House. Only 235 such questions can be asked in a day.
Number of private member bills moved by Mallya is again nil. But the national and state averages are also a minimal 1.2 and 1.1. This is not surprising given such bills are rarely passed and made into laws.
A further break-up shows that Mallya's lowest attendance was in Winter Session of 2013 - just 10 percent. The highest was in Monsoon Session of 2010 - 77 percent. It has to be noted that this was soon after his induction into the Upper House.
According to MPLADS website, Mallya had received Rs 14.22 crore funds (with interest) under member of Parliament local area development scheme (MPLADS), of which he has utilised Rs 10 crore.
However, the bigger question is with so much of negative news surrounding Mallya, shouldn't he take a moral responsibility and resign the Rajya Sabha, especially considering he is now having a gala time in some exotic locale abroad?
Before arriving at an answer, consider these facts: Records show Mallya was last present in the Rajya Sabha on 1 March, that is nearly a week after he announced his sweetheart deal with Diageo, an agreement which was supposed to give him Rs 515 crore or $75 million. It is this deal that kicked up a storm as he also announced his intention to move to UK to spend time with his kids.
And according to Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi's submission in the Supreme Court, Mallya left the country on 2 March.
On 26 February, after Mallya disclosed his plans to move out of the country, SBI chief Arundhati Bhattacharya had told Firstpost that the bank, which has lent about Rs 2,000 crore to Mallya's defunct Kingfisher Airlines, is exploring legal options.
“We are taking action as per law to protect our interests,’ Bhattacharya had said.
And on 3 March news broke that SBI has moved the DRT in Bangalore seeking to block Mallya from moving out of India, to impound his passport and also claiming first right on the money he was supposed to get from Diageo. That happened presumably a day after Mallya left the country, giving a slip to all the investigating authorities.
Interestingly, even the statement (issued on 7 March), in which he claimed he was not an absconder, came after he left the country.
Ironically, he also said that to be a Rajya Sabha member was an honour.
"My statement as to my personal future after quitting Diageo/USL - that I want to spend more time in England closer to my children - has been grossly distorted and misportrayed," he said in the statement.
"I have been most pained as being painted as an absconder – I have neither the intention nor any reason to abscond... Over the years, I have built successful businesses in India and abroad. I am also honoured to be a member of the Rajya Sabha," he further said.
Clearly, Mallya was lying through his teeth. He has been gaming a system that takes a soft approach towards cronies.
As R Jagannathan argues in an article in Swarajya Mallya is a fit case for expulsion from Rajya Sabha. He is "a member who owes over Rs 7,000 crore to public sector banks, has been declared a “wilful defaulter” by many of them, and on whom employees, the taxman, and the provident fund organisation have claims," Jagannathan points out in the article.
"If there is a fit case for the Rajya Sabha to act against an MP who has brought shame on the institution by behaving unethically with India, its taxpayers and his former employees at Kingfisher, it is this," he concludes.
But will the political class act?
With inputs from Kishor Kadam. All data from PRS Legislative website unless otherwise mentioned
Published Date: Mar 10, 2016 12:55 PM | Updated Date: Mar 10, 2016 12:55 PM