Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monogrammed suit that he won for his Chai Pe Charcha with US President Barack Obama last month, sold for Rs.4.31 crore after a three-day auction that ended in Surat on Friday.
There was a scramble to claim Modi’s pinstripe monogrammed suit with bids going higher on the third and final day after Laljibhai Patel made the final bid. Another bid of Rs.5 crore was rejected after the deadline for the auction ended.
The suit, that kicked up a political storm, is being auctioned along with 455 items that Modi had received as gifts during his nearly nine-month long tenure, to generate funds for the Prime Minister’s ambitious ‘Clean Ganga Mission’. The auction at the Science Convention Centre will close at 5 PM today after which the articles will be handed over to the highest bidder.
Modi was photographed wearing the suit during the summit talks with Obama at Hyderabad House in Delhi on January 25 and at a joint media appearance that followed the meeting. On closer inspection, photographs showed that the stripes were actually a monogram — Narendra Damodardas Modi — embroidered on the fabric vertically down the stripe.
The suit had triggered a national debate and the Prime Minister was slammed by his political opponents — especially the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party — for wearing an expensive suit that some reports said cost nearly Rs.10 lakh. Amid the media hype surrounding the auction, Congress workers held a protest outside the auction venue calling the event an act of “self publicity” by Modi.
“Swine flu cases are on rise in the city, the state and also in the country, but the BJP government has neglected poor patients. Now they hold such extravaganzas in the name of cleaning Ganga. The people of Varanasi should ask Modi why he did not fulfil the promises he made,” Surat city Congress President Naishad Desai had told reporters. “Modi has organised this extravaganza merely for self publicity and personal gain. This property belongs to the nation and certainly not to him,” Desai said.
The auction, apart from protest also drew derision, with JD-U president Sharad Yadav calling the suit “historic” which should be kept in a “museum.” “The suit is historic in nature. It should not be sold, but kept in a museum. The future generation can view it and they can learn a lot from it. No one should ridicule it. All this will increase tourism,” he said in Delhi, taking a jibe at the Prime Minister.
There were also questions about whether PM Modi had violated the code of conduct for ministers by accepting the suit from Gujarat-based NRI businessman Rameshkumar Bhikabhai. The code of conduct issued by the Home Ministry for Union ministers, chief ministers and the state ministers clearly states: a minister should not accept valuable gifts except from close relatives, and he or members of his family should not accept any gifts at all from any person with whom he may have official dealings.
Bhikabhai, who he claims is Modi’s “friend of four decades” and not a close relative, had claimed on Wednesday that he had gifted the prime minister the suit, which is currently being auctioned in Surat and has already attracted a bidding price of close to Rs.1.2 crore. Incidentally, PM Modi himself is the authority on the observance of the code of conduct if it involves Union ministers. As per rules, a Union minister accept can gifts during his or her visits abroad or from foreign dignitaries in India.