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MOHAN GURUSWAMY | 9 MARCH, 2017

MALLYA THE ABSCONDING NATIONALIST


NEW DELHI: Vijay Mallya the absconding businessman, bon vivant, racehorse owner and motor sports enthusiasts entered politics in 2000 by a "friendly" supercession of Subramaniam Swamy as the president of Janata Party, a breakaway faction of the original Janata Dal party. His party contested for around twenty seats during the Karnataka State legislative election.

He campaigned vigorously through the media and like the king of good times with Sanjay Khan, the movie actor. But his party failed to make any impact and did not win a single seat. Following the party’s failure in the elections, it was been largely ignored by the media. His political advisor was MJ Akbar, the one time journalist and former Congress Party spokesman and MP, and now a BJP MP and now MoS.

Vijay Mallya is noted for his successful bidding in auction of items that are considered of great historical value to India. In 2004, he placed the winning bid of £175,000 for the sword of Tipu Sultan at an auction in London, and brought it back to India. Subsequently, he bought 30 other items owned by Tipu Sultan from auction houses in the UK, including a cannon, other weapons, and personal items.

In March 2009, Mallya successfully bid for the belongings of Mahatma Gandhi for US$1.8 million, in a New York auction that initially caused an uproar in India and its government tried and failed to prevent it from going under the hammer.

The main source of Vijay Mallya's wealth was by evading excise duty by under declaring liquor production. He enjoyed the protection of successive Karnataka government's from the days of Ramakrishna Hegde. When people like Kuldip Nayyar described Hegde's politics as "value based politics" many of us used to chuckle and describe it as "spirit based politics." He also made a pile by exporting booze to AP where his friend Chandrababu Naidu had introduced prohibition.

His membership.of the House of Elders and public hobnobbing with the high and mighty not only opened doors to the banks but also their coffers to help himself. SBI did creative lending against the "Kingfisher" brand extensions.

According to the hypothecation deed signed between SBI and Kingfisher Airlines on August 10, 2010, SBI was given ownership of all trademarks and goodwill if Kingfisher Airlines failed to repay its debts. These included Fly Kingfisher (label mark & word), Flying Models, Fly The Good Times, Funliner & Kingfisher (label mark). In 2009, global consultancy firm Grant & Thronton valued Kingfisher trademarks at Rs 4,111 crore or roughly $1 billion.

In 2012, when the airline's licence was suspended by India's aviation regulator Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Kingfisher Airlines valued itself at Rs 3,008 crore. The current value of the trademarks now stands at a mere Rs 6 crore! "We have put it up for sale. But have not received any satisfactory responses till now," according to official bank sources."

I believe Mallya still has enough money stashed away to settle a good part of his debts. But he has friends in high places. Besides that what we need to get under is how and the why did SBI and other banks lend him against a "brand"? I think it's time for Finance Minister Arun Jaitely to make a statement. And somebody who tipped him off to bolt at Central Hall needs to be unmasked.

For his good work Vijay Mallya has received several professional awards both in India and overseas:

Honorary degree of Doctorate of Philosophy in Business Administration, by the Southern California University for Professional Studies (1997).

"Officier de la Légion d'Honneur", a high award of recognition in France.

"Global leader for tomorrow", World Economic Forum.

"Entrepreneur of the Year" award at The Asian Awards (2010).

Mallya was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2010 with crucial support from the BJP. The BJP, however, was shy of openly saying its surplus votes will go to Mallya, as he is backed by arch-rival JD-S. "We have decided to defeat the Congress," the then.State BJP president K S Eshwarappa told reporters after a meeting of party legislators which was attended by the BJP's M Venkaiah Naidu, then Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa and all party legislators.

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