Expulsion not enough, we must examine how a Vijay Mallya makes it to Rajya Sabha

Following the rejection of liquor baron Vijay Mallya's resignation as an MP, the ethics committee of Rajya Sabha has recommended his expulsion. It remains sheer formality at this point, that he be summarily removed from the Upper House – as per the dictates of the collective conscience of the members.

Is this the end of the matter? Can the expulsion be taken as expiation of the Indian political class for committing the sin of imposing Mallya in parliament – deemed as the 'temple of democracy'? What are the safeguards and assurances that there would not be another 'Mallya' in the midst of honourable MPs?

Of course, such critical questions are rarely answered.

Vijay Mallya posing with models

A file photo of Vijay Mallya, depicting his flamboyant lifestyle.

Those who have seen Mallya’s clout and flashy lifestyle during his stint in Parliament would testify that he was feted and adored across the party-lines. His comfort with the BJP was no less than his ease with the Congress. As an honourable MP and a redoubtable industrialist, he had unfettered access to the finance ministry – which he successfully leveraged to secure loans from the banks.

His otherwise dim decade-long stint in parliament – with zero special mentions and a mere 621 questions – was overshadowed by his chartered Boeing and his penchant to shower munificence on friends, helping him acquire mythical proportions during his term and triggering a race among MPs to get close to him.

There are stories about free-flowing liquor and opulent luxury with unimaginable hospitality for those who hopped on the chartered plane with the “king of good times”. An influential section of the political class literally swooned over him in ecstatic joy by merely getting associated with him.

That is the precise reason why he won the Rajya Sabha seat two times – once with the help of Congress and the other with BJP. It seems that Mallya’s status as social pariah in today’s context is more a commentary on the political class than Mallya himself. This is not the first time that a person’s wealth and not his political worth has determined his political status.

By no stretch of the imagination was Mallya expected to contribute to the enrichment of the debate in Rajya Sabha. Being a mostly non-resident Indian, he spent more time abroad than in India anyway. Given Mallya’s flamboyance, it would be patently wrong to assume that the political class was so naïve to believe that the industrialist would raise issues pertaining to Karnataka or South India. Mallya successfully capitalised on his glamour quotient, which kept the political class in its thrall.

The Rajya Sabha, known as the council of states, was created to conduct dignified and informed debates and to raise the issues of the states through members elected by indirect elections.

Discussing the importance of Rajya Sabha, eminent Jurist LM Singhvi said, “I am not sure that we can say with our hands on our hearts and with a clear conscience that we are giving the discourse of the nation the full measure of the benefit and the advantage of that dignity of national discourse or debate to which a reference was made when our Constitution was being written”.

Singhvi also referred to a speech given by Dr S Radhakrishna on 16 May, 1952 where he said, “we have to justify the confidence which led to an institutional investment in hope and expectation in creating the Rajya Sabha.”

Mallya is just a symptom of the morbid affliction of the Indian polity. How else can you explain that BSP founder Kanshi Ram, who claimed to be a messiah of the Dalits, chose industrialist Jayant Malhotra as Rajya Sabha MP. It would be foolish to believe that Kanshi Ram’s fondness for Malhotra emanated from the latter’s commitment to the Dalits’ cause. In fact, Malhotra had a chopper that was used by Kanshi Ram.

Similarly, Mulayam Singh Yadav discovered socialism in industrialists Sanjay Dalmia and Amar Singh. And, Mahendra Prasad Singh – known as King Mahendra, and the owner of a pharmaceutical company – was found to be acceptable by the Congress and later the Janata Dal (U) to get a berth in the Upper House many a times from Bihar.

In fact, the regional parties have been emulating the BJP and the Congress – which have consummated the art of using the Upper House as a parking berth for people possessing the glamour quotient. They rarely speak on the issues or participate in the debates.

In some cases – like Vijay Mallya – they are more interested in having a NRI status than to take up the cause of people and enrich the debate in Rajya Sabha.

In effect, the Mallya episode raises a basic yet pertinent question : How do people like Mallya get into the august Rajya Sabha?

The answer needs to be sought through introspection by the political class as a whole. Merely expelling Mallya from the Rajya Sabha is insufficient atonement of their sins.

Updated Date: May 04, 2016 18:41 PM

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