A textile merchant is willing to fork out a whopping Rs 1.21 crore for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s controversial suit with his name embroidered in gold pinstripes that went under the hammer at a Surat auction on Wednesday.
Surat businessman Rajesh Juneja topped an earlier bid by NRI entrepreneur Virel Chowksi, who offered Rs 1.11 crore for the outfit worn by Modi when he met US President Barack Obama last month in Delhi.
The suit, which caused a sartorial stir on social media, is among more than 450 gifts received by the PM to be auctioned to raise funds for cleaning the Ganga. The three-day bidding process ends on Friday.
“I am bidding because the money will be used for good cause and I am impressed with Modi,” Juneja said, adding that he was willing to hike his bid by Rs 30-40 lakh.
Magnified photos of the gold pinstripes — which spell out “Narendra Damodardas Modi” — went viral on the internet, inviting ridicule from Opposition leaders who said it cost Rs 10 lakh.
Critics drew comparisons with deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who was once photographed in a similar outfit.
The Congress objected to the outfit being called a private gift and said Modi was auctioning it as he wanted to get rid of it after all the condemnation.
“This is happening three weeks after the suit was worn by Modi... This is a damage control exercise. Damage control of his reputation,” party general secretary Ajay Maken told reporters in Delhi. “Wearing of a suit of Rs 10 lakh was criticised not only in India, but globally.”
The Aam Aadmi Party that decimated the BJP in this month’s Delhi election also mocked the Prime Minister. “Narendra Modi and the BJP have mastered the art of marketing. The sale of the suit is nothing, but marketing itself,” said senior party leader Ashutosh.
The criticism came after an NRI businessman said he gave the suit to Modi as a gift while inviting him to his son’s wedding.
"Though Modi Ji could not attend the wedding, he wore the suit on the day," said Ramesh Virani.
Officials said no base price had been set for the suit or any of the other presents, which include brass, bronze, silver and gold items.
"There are many items on display including his pinstriped suit, two shirts that Cricket Australia gave him during the PM's visit to Australia, 237 clothes and textile items, 12 silver articles, five glass items, many photo frames, as well as metallic and ceramic gift articles," said Surat municipal commissioner Milind Toravane.
Sources said authorities in Surat asked all the top jewel and textile barons in the Diamond City to participate in the auction.
"The auction has drawn a huge response from the people of Surat, who are visiting the venue to see the articles on display,” said Purnesh Modi, BJP MLA from Surat.
During Modi's 2001-2014 stint as chief minister of Gujarat, the gifts he received were regularly auctioned off and the money collected used to fund programmes for the education of girls in the state.