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Feb 21, 2012, 12.33 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Endgame Kingfisher: Mallya and his grounded mega-dream

There's a weariness that's creeping into Vijay Mallya's voice these days as he responds to criticism blaming Kingfisher Airlines' flawed business model for the airline's financial problems.

Endgame Kingfisher: Mallya and his grounded mega-dream

There's a weariness that's creeping into Vijay Mallya's voice these days as he responds to criticism blaming Kingfisher Airlines ' flawed business model for the airline's financial problems.

Gone is the cocksure manner, the swagger that characterised his every flamboyant venture, and the breezy attitude that proclaimed his fondness for the good things in life – and a bearing that tells anyone who doesn’t like it to lump it.

Today, the King of Good Times is assiduously downplaying that image, and even dismissing it as "a figment of everyone's imagination."

"I don't live and work for creating an image," he told CNN-IBN late on Monday. "I'm not a Bollywood star that I need to work for an image." At the end of the day, he added, "I like to believe that I work very hard."

And when he turns to discussing Kingfisher Airlines' fading fortunes, Mallya sounds borderline contrite. "Kingfisher is struggling today. Do we have a comfortable financial position? The answer is 'no', and there is no reason to be ashamed about it."

And when pressed on his commitment to keep Kingfisher afloat, Mallya sounds almost fatalistic. "I am absolutely committed to keeping Kingfisher Airlines going – unless some government agency wishes to ground it" (emphasis added)

Therein may lie a clue to Mallya’s likely endgame strategy for his beleaguered airline. It revolves around flying on a wing and a prayer, and blaming Kingfisher’s troubles entirely on flawed government policy, so that if it comes right down to it and Kingfisher is grounded, he can walk away a martyr.

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