SURAT: Narendra Modi's monogrammed bandhgala suit that drew trenchant criticism from rivals was today sold off for a staggering Rs 4.31 crore at an auction in perhaps the first such sale of articles gifted to a serving Prime Minister.
The navy blue suit with Modi's name in full-- Narendra Damodardas Modi--embroidered on the fabric to look like golden stripes which he had worn for Summit talks with US President Barack Obama in New Delhi on January 25 went to a diamond trader from Surat Lalji Patel and his son after an intense bidding for the two-piece ensemble on the closing day of the three-day auction.
"The suit has been purchased for Rs 4.31 crore by Dharmananda Diamond Company's Lalji Patel and his son Hitesh Patel," District Collector Rajendra Kumar announced at the end of the exercise marked by chaos during the closing moments.
The price climbed steadily through the day as buyers and curious onlookers gathered around a lookalike mannequin of Modi on which the suit was displayed behind a glass case. Some bids, including one of Rs five crore, were received after the 5 pm deadline and were disallowed, he said.
The money generated from the auction will go for Modi's ambitious 'Clean Ganga Mission'.
An elated Patel later told reporters he wanted to do something for the country and the auction gave him a chance for that.
"I always wanted to do something in the interest of country. This event gave me a chance to do some thing in national interest. I never thought that this incredible suit will come to me," he said.
"All of them had a desire to purchase this suit. They had a good intention that money they are spending will go for the 'Clean Ganga Mission'. I also made the bid with the same intention," added Patel.
His son Hitesh said his family has a "special relation" with the Ganga which made them shell out the money.
"Every year we spend 10-15 days on the banks of Ganga, especially at Rishikesh. So we have a special, spiritual and auspicious relation with the river," Hitesh Patel told PTI.
"We made a bid of Rs 4,31,31,000 for the suit as the money will go for cleaning the Ganga. We never thought that we will get the suit for so little," he said, adding he would get the attire altered and wear it before putting it on display at the reception area of the family firm 'Dharmanand Diamonds".
The suit, said to be worth Rs 10 lakh, had kicked up a political storm with the Opposition, particularly the Congress taking on Modi during the campaign for Delhi Assembly polls.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi used the suit, whose fabric was claimed to have come from United Kingdom, to attack Modi over his 'Make in India' campaign and to show how alienated he was from the poor to have worn a Rs 10 lakh attire.
The party had called the auction a "damage control" and demanded that the exercise be stopped and the suit deposited with the 'Toshakhana' (treasury).
"This is happening three weeks after the suit was worn by Modi... This is a damage control exercise. Damage control of his reputation," Congress General Secretary Ajay Maken had said after the monogrammed dress had been slammed by another party leader Jairam Ramesh, who called the Prime Minister a "Megalomaniac".
Citing the statute book, the Opposition also questioned the propriety of the Prime Minister accepting such an expensive gift from a person not related to him.
AAP too had ridiculed Modi over the auction of his suit. "Narendra Modi and the BJP have mastered the art of marketing. The sale of the suit is nothing, but marketing itself," senior party leader Ashutosh said.
"This is DCPR, Damage Control Public Relations, this has nothing to do with Ganga cleaning," TMC leader Derek O'Brien, MP, tweeted.
BJP weathered strident criticism from rivals with a brave face. "Probably, they are unable to digest that an ordinary person like Modi has risen to such a position and that is why the Congress is attacking him like this," its spokesman Sudhanshu Trivedi said.
Amid the swirling controversy over the suit, a NRI Gujarati businessman Ramesh B Virani had claimed he gifted it to Modi when he had gone to invite him for his son's wedding.
"At that time, he (Modi) told me that he has a very busy schedule ahead and also that he will be donating the suit. I said there is no problem with that. I told him that I want him to wear the suit on the day of my son's wedding as a blessing," Virani said, but parried questions about the cost of the suit as it had been bought by his son, who was abroad.
The suit was tailored by 'Jade Blue' in Ahmedabad, a clothing chain that handles Modi's wardrobe.
Notwithstanding the Opposition's protests over the auction, the rich and the wealthy made a beeline for the two-piece ensemble with bidding peaking on the third and final day.
There was a rush for the suit during the dying hours of the auction.
The bidding that started off today with Rs 1.61 crore, inched up to 1.75 crore before the stakes entered the Rs two crore zone when Haryana-based LPS Bossard company's Managing Director Rajesh Jain placed a bid of Rs 2.09 crore, giving a fresh momentum to the proceedings. As bids soared, Jain raised his stake to 2.86 crore.
Bidding hovered around the Rs 3 crore mark with Bhavnagar-based diamond trader and shipbreaker Mukesh Patel, who had yesterday offered Rs 1.48 crore, further upping the ante with a bid of Rs 2.95 crore.
A few others followed in succession and the bids quickly reached the Rs 4 crore territory.
Even after Lalji Patel's Rs 4.31 crore offer made just before the 5 pm deadline, a few more bids came with one of Rs 5 crore.
A tense Patel heaved a sigh of relief as the Collector disallowed those and announced his name as the winner of the coveted suit.
The suit was among 455 items Modi had received as gift during his tenure as Prime Minister which were put up for sale during the 3-day auction by the Surat Municipal Corporation.
Apart from the suit, a Cricket Australia T-shirt gifted to him by bowling great Brett Lee, idols of various gods, Mahatma Gandhi, a replica of the Father of the Nation's spectacles, shawls, turbans, besides several other artefacts were part of the auction.
Two photographs of Modi with his mother Heeraba were also there. According to Surat Municipal Commissioner Milind Toravane, the money generated from the auction will be utilised for the Prime Minister's 'Clean Ganga Mission'.