And just when it looked like his London days could be over Mallya let the secret out to newspersons “during lunchtime” that he had met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before he left India in March 2016. Nice timing. The focus shifted from London to Delhi and the blame-game began. Jaitley came out with a statement and the Congress came up with one. Confusion prevailed.

The day after his lunch bite/byte, Mallya told clueless media-persons that the “whole Arun Jaitley controversy” was a “media creation to sensationalize.” The fugitive business tycoon said he had “only bumped into” Jaitley and that it was “common for colleagues to bump into each other in Parliament.” That did not satisfy newspersons dogging his heels outside the magistrate’s court. So much so, they had to make “precarious road crossings” to clarify.

The next such crossing will take place on December 10 when the court will rule on his extradition. But the counter-crossings in India will not stop. The phenomenon of the “fugitive” is now firmly entrenched in the minds of the voters and corruption, which was the top issue in the 2014 elections, has become an election issue for 2019, too.

The allegation is that Jaitley colluded with Mallya and let him escape with a little nudge to the CBI and the Bureau of Immigration. The CBI diluted the lookout notice issued against Mallya and let Mallya go without hindrance. What more does a man need after being inundated with money not his own and he couldn’t wade out of, even if he wanted to?

A proactive Rahul Gandhi jumped into the fallout of the lunch-bite, asking for Jaitley’s resignation for “colluding with” Mallya and “allowing the criminal to flee.” The BJP promptly dismissed the charge with Union minister Piyush Goyal stating that it was “the Gandhi family’s close relations” with Mallya which influenced banks to loan money to Mallya. The flamboyant businessman is not denying anything, so it’s confusing as to what Goyal is complaining about.

And we know one thing more about democracy from drenching the controversy: Politicians have eyes and ears keener than those of the aam aadmi. And memories that switch off and on. Congress leader KL Punia recalled spotting Jaitley in conversation with Mallya in Parliament’s central hall, and hearing the two discuss settling and leaving matters. “I can prove it,” he told media. “There is CCTV and other evidence. I saw Mallya in conversation with Jaitley on March 1, 2016, a day before he fled the country.” Punia said he will give up politics if his eyes and ears were proved wrong.

The Congress president tweeted that Jaitley should resign as it was an “open and shut case” of collusion. “Mr Jaitley is lying, the government is lying on Rafale and the government is lying on Vijay Mallya. A meeting was held with Mr Arun Jaitley and Vijay Mallya. The logistics of Mr Mallya leaving the country were discussed in that meeting,” Rahul Gandhi said. .

“On March 3, we heard from the media that he (Mallya) fled the country on March 2. I have clearly stated about this in each of my media interviews and TV discussions that I saw the two talking to each other. There are CCTV cameras. We can all see the CCTV footage of March 1, 2016 for the proof. If I am wrong, I will resign from politics. Otherwise Mr Jaitley should quit politics,” Punia said.

Piyush Goyal returned the compliment. “Where was he for the last two-and-a-half years? Why was he silent for so long?” Goyal asked. “The finance minister has made it clear that he snubbed Mallya. Now the Congress got Punia to say he heard and saw the conversation. Why after two years did he suddenly remember the incident and decide to disclose it?”

The problem is while the rival political parties fight it out, media is adding confusion to confusion. There is the “lapdog media” and there is the out of power “Lutyen’s media”. Documents long dated are being resurrected and handed over to media to “access” and these have become fodder for rival media to cast each other in the bin by propping up political garbage in the name of news.

In these circumstances, it is difficult to understand how and why Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps talking of ‘Swacch Bharat’, as he did at his meeting with the Bohra Samaj Thursday, when the odour of corruption (Rafale, bank loans) is so thick in the air that it doesn’t seem like there was ever a break from 2G and 2014. It was not a ‘Swacch Bharat’ then, and it’s not a ‘Swacch Bharat’ this time. As for ‘Ab Ki Baar Kiski Sarkar’, it will not be the Bohra Samaj which will decide; more likely Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. (IPA Service)