The suit appeared to be a classic navy blue pinstripe design but actually spelt out “Narendra Damodardas Modi” again and again (photo: AFP)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is auctioning off his controversial suit with his name embroidered in gold pinstripes that had created a controversy when he wore it when he hosted U.S. President Barack Obama in January. A textile merchant from Surat Rajesh Juneja is willing to fork out a massive Rs 1.21 crore ($184,000) for the suit at a charity auction that ends on Friday.
Juneja topped an earlier bid by entrepreneur Virel Chowksi, who offered Rs 1.11 crore for the suit.
The suit is among more than 450 gifts received by the prime minister that are being auctioned to raise funds for cleaning the Ganga.
“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.
From a distance, the suit appeared to be a classic navy blue pinstripe design. But magnified photos of the gold pinstripes – which spell out “Narendra Damodardas Modi” again and again – went viral on social media last month, inviting ridicule from Opposition leaders who said it cost nearly Rs 10 lakh ($16,000). Critics accused him of being "self-obsessed", "narcissistic" and a megalomaniac”.
The suit had generated negative publicity for the prime minister barely two weeks before the Delhi assembly election. It created an unflattering image of Modi as a politician no longer connected with the common man. This may have helped in turning off voters in Delhi, with regional rival party AAP decimating the BJP.
It also reflected poorly on Modi’s judgement when it emerged that a similar suit was earlier cworn by deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
The Congress claimed that Modi was auctioning the outfit 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.
Yet, auctioning gifts for charity was an established practice under Modi's 2001-2014 stint as chief minister of Gujarat, where the gifts he received were regularly auctioned off and the proceeds used to fund programmes for the education of girls in the state.