The only time politicians in India speak the truth is when they talk against each other. But they remain boring and predictable. So, watching them spar over the fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya is like watching a third-rate movie again and again.
The same old self-righteousness, the same feigned outrage over the loot of public sector banks, the same claptrap. Words, words, words—meaning nothing, signifying nothing. In fact, the way politicians use the language is exactly the opposite it is intended to be: they don’t want to convey anything; they want to cover everything. With cant and smoke and mirrors.
When Mallya claimed that he had a meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, it kicked off a political storm. Mallya later clarified that the meeting was not formal, but this didn’t bury the row. It was during a lunch break at his extradition hearing in London that Mallya claimed that he had met Jaitley before leaving India. He offered to settle his dues. The allegations that followed Mallya’s revelation were not very subtle: the Minister was accused of tipping off the troubled businessman.
Typically, Jaitley called Mallya’s comment “factually false.” He said, “Mallya paced up to catch up with me and while walking uttered a sentence that ‘I am making an offer of settlement’.”
The Congress was quick to react and slam Jaitley. Party president Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Given Vijay Mallya’s extremely serious allegations in London today, the PM should immediately order an independent probe into the matter. Arun Jaitley should step down as Finance Minister while this probe is underway.”
This was perhaps the unkindest cut, for Jaitley is supposed to enjoy cordial relations with Congress leaders, including the Family, even in these acrimonious times. So cordial that he often becomes the target of nasty allegations. And here Rahul is castigating him and seeking his resignation!
Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra came to the Finance Minister’s defence. At a press conference, he pointed out that the loans given to Mallya were during UPA rule. In fact, he said, the UPA gave Kingfisher Airlines a “sweet deal,” adding that Kingfishers Airlines was owned by the Gandhi family.
Elaborating on this theme, Union Minister Piyush Goyal demanded at a press conference that Rahul should clarify the relation between Mallya and his family. “All norms, laws and regulations were passed to help the Kingfisher Airlines and specific instructions were given by the Congress-led UPA government to banks for restructuring loans for the company,” Goyal said. He also wanted Rahul Gandhi’s resignation.
In response, the Congress launched a counterattack. Addressing a press conference, Randeep Singh Surjewala flayed the Narendra Modi government for running a “fleece”, “fly”, and “settle abroad” travel agency. Expectedly, he went on to mention Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.
If politicians think that anybody other than their colleagues, rivals, and journalists keep track of, much less bother about, their sanctimonious statements, they are living in a world of their own making. People take notice only when some neta makes an absolutely obnoxious or foolish remark, though it is also becoming quite frequent.
Over the years, India has become the sum total of all dystopias. The country suffers from every conceivable problem—economic (no jobs, price controls, choking regulation), political (girls in shelter homes), social (casteism, superstition), cultural (philistinism reigns); but all our political masters are interested in are their feuds, aimed at undermining each other rather than making things better.
(By Ravi Shanker Kapoor, journalist and author. He upholds freedom of expression, individual liberty, free market, and open society. He has published three books till date. Views expressed are personal)