A few MLAs who were part of poll process in 2002, when he first contested, said Vijay Mallya had ‘influenced’ several JD(S), Congress & BJP leaders.
Bengaluru: Billionaire industrialist Vijay Mallya, a two-time Rajya Sabha member, was as controversial a parliamentarian as he has been in business.
Both his stints as an Independent MP from Karnataka were marked by allegations that he bribed MLAs to get their vote.
And all the state’s three big political players, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress, supported his bid at one time or the other, even though some are reluctant to admit it now.
Senior JD(S) leader PGR Sindhia, who was Mallya’s party colleague in the Janata Dal (United) at the time of his first nomination in 2002, said he knew “that a few MLAs took money while others refused”.
“I can tell you he has done it,” Sindhia told ThePrint.
“When they made him the JD(U) national vice-president… they called a meeting. I protested and staged a walkout.
“I told my leaders that this man was a fraud and a cheat who would take over the party like any other company,” he said.
The BJP, which is said to have supported Mallya’s second stint as MP to steal a march on the Congress, has made similar allegations.
State BJP spokesperson Vaman Acharya said the party had never backed Mallya, claiming that his win was the result of members cross-voting.
“You should ask the JD(S), who claim they are secular… They have taken money and lobbied for a man for profit,” he added.
“This disease struck the BJP too at the time and a few members cross-voted, but we did not support him,” Acharya said.
“There is a class of industrialists who think they can buy seats in this country, especially a Rajya Sabha seat. But the BJP does not endorse this”, he added.
The first attempt
For Mallya’s first bid for a Rajya Sabha seat, the JD(S) lobbied with the Congress to enlist their support for the industrialist too. Mallya ended up defeating BJP’s Taradevi Siddharth for one of four seats up for grabs.
A few MLAs who were part of the election process that year told ThePrint that Mallya had “influenced” several JD(S) and Congress leaders.
He is also said to have convinced a group of 10 BJP MLAs to defy the party whip and vote for him, landing him a comfortable win.
When Mallya won the seat, he said he would represent the interests of the people of Karnataka. But senior Congress members say Mallya did nothing to represent the state.
According to them, he used his office to “hobnob with people in the corridors of power for his own selfish reasons”.
“I don’t think he justified his RS membership,” said Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president, Dinesh Gundu Rao, “It was more of a fancy title for him.”
When asked why the Congress supported his bid, party sources said Mallya was, at the time, the most influential businessman from the state. “Nobody expected him to turn out like this,” he added.
However, Rao clarified that he was not a Congress candidate. “We only gave him the extra votes… He also had the support of other parties like the JD(S) and independents.”
The second term
The liquor baron was elected for a second term in 2010, this time with the backing of the BJP government, then headed by B.S. Yeddyurappa, apart from the JD(S).
At the time, there were four Rajya Sabha vacancies and in order to get elected, each candidate needed the support of 45 MLAs.
The BJP had the numbers to get two MPs elected, with 26 votes to spare. The Congress had the numbers to support one MP, with a surplus of 29 votes. The JD(S) had 27 votes in all.
Here again, there were whispers that Mallya was in talks with a few BJP MLAs who cross-voted in his favour.
The Congress did not have enough numbers to elect its second nominee, T. V. Maruthi, so the BJP is said to have handed over its extra votes to Mallya.
Mallya won with 27 votes of the JD(S), one from an Independent, and the remaining from the BJP.
The JD(S), which backed both of Mallya’s terms, said they regretted the decision now.
JD(S) national spokesperson Kunwar Danish Ali claimed it was a decision taken by the party high command, adding that there were many in the party who opposed his candidature.
“I was personally opposed to sending such type of people to the Rajya Sabha,” he said.
“Even when my party proposed to back him as an Independent candidate, I objected,” Ali added.
“Now, my party has realised that such kind of people should not have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha,” he said.
After reports emerged that he had defaulted on a Rs 9,400 crore loan, Mallya began to keep a low profile.
He fled India in March, and resigned as MP on 2 May 2016, a day before the ethics committee of the Rajya Sabha unanimously decided to recommend his expulsion.
Mallya’s resignation letter to the then Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari stated that all the allegations against him were blatantly false and baseless.