The suit which Prime Minister Narendra Modi wore during his meeting with US President Barack Obama went for Rs 4.31 crore to Surat diamond baron and private airline owner Laljibhai Patel on the final day of the auction Friday.
This was the third bid made by Patel. A bid of Rs 5 crore by another diamond baron, Mukesh Patel, was not entertained since it was past the 5 pm deadline.
Some of the highest bids were made by owners of the Diamond Aeronautics Company, which charters planes to fly within Gujarat and to Mumbai.
The base price of the suit, which has ‘Narendra Damodardas Modi’ monogrammed as pinstripes, was Rs 11 lakh. Businessman Ramesh Virani, who lives abroad, has claimed that he gifted the suit to Modi on his son’s wedding, which coincided with Obama’s visit on January 26.
Laljibhai Patel, who co-founded Diamond Aeronautics with three other businessmen, two diamantaires and a real estate developer, made three bids — of Rs 2.08 crore, Rs 2.51 crore and Rs 4.31 crore.
Laljibhai told The Indian Express, “On my way to the Science Centre in the evening, I made up my mind to purchase the suit. The money does not matter. Even if it had exceeded Rs 5 crore, I would have definitely purchased it. The coat cannot be valued in money, the cause behind it — of cleaning river Ganga — is important. I was hoping that PM Modi would hand me the suit, but I don’t mind taking it from the hands of local authorities.”
Laljibhai plans to keep the suit in a glass cupboard in his diamond factory to serve as an “inspiration”.
He said that his bid had set a “benchmark” which would motivate “a healthy competition with other states”. He added, “Let us see how much people in other states bid for the remaining items on auction.”
The auction of more than 800 items received as gifts by Modi and Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel will head to other cities outside Gujarat.
Surat’s diamantaires, meanwhile, did not stop at the suit. Govindbhai Dholakia, chairman of a diamond export firm and co-founder of Diamond Aeronautics, bought a model of Kathmandu’s Pashupatinath temple for Rs 1.11 crore, while his partner in Diamond Aeronautics, Lavjibhai Dalia, bought a Statue of Liberty replica for Rs 1.11 crore — both said to be gifts Modi received from heads of state.
Govindhbhai’s nephew Rakesh Dholakia bought a Bhagvad Gita for Rs 11 lakh.
Vipul Shah, chairman of Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council of India and a diamond and jewellery businessman based in Mumbai, had placed a bid of Rs 2.51 crore for the suit. “It would be a great honour to purchase such a suit and we will work towards buying it,” he had said.
Lavji Dalia or Lavji Badshah, also a co-founder of Diamond Aeronautics and a major real estate player in Surat, made a Rs 1.71 crore bid. Dalia is a seen in most BJP events. “Narendrabhai is my friend and I have great respect for him,” he said.
Mukesh Patel, who runs diamond and jewellery business by the name of Hindva group, had made bids of Rs 1.39 crore, Rs 1.41 crore and finally Rs 5 crore, but it was not held valid since the deadline had passed. “I am big fan of Narendra Modi and have met him several times after he became PM. He also visited my house once when he was CM,” he claimed.
Asked about I-T raids on his business in the past, he said, “We have a big business and many a times, income tax department officials have carried out raids. But we don’t worry; we pay the tax amount and continue our business.”
Komalkant Sharma, chairman of Leela Group of Bhavnagar, made a bid of Rs 31 lakh and then Rs 1.41 crore. “Since, the proceeds are going for the cleaning of the Ganga, it appeals to me as a Hindu. Secondly, the suit might act as source of inspiration for my children. It will tell them that a tea seller can become the PM without any short-cut,” Sharma, who has two daughters, said.
The youngest bidders, Siddhant who studies in Class VII and his brother Vedant Karnavat of Class II, made a bid of Rs 1 lakh on the first day and said they had saved up their “pocket money”. Their father Pankaj Karnavat, a chartered accountant, said, “It was my children’s wish to purchase the suit so they took my permission and I allowed them to bid.”