Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to auction off an expensive suit bearing his name stitched in gold and which caused controversy after he wore it to a meeting with US President Barack Obama last month.
The tailored suit is made of an expensive woollen material sourced from London’s fashionable Saville Row with pin stripes spelling out his name ‘Narendra Damordas Modi’ and was reportedly made by a tailor in the Far East.
Media outlets latched on to the suit – gifted to Mr Modi by a supporter following his landslide election in May – and criticized the Prime Minister for being “out of touch” in a country where nearly half the population live in extreme poverty.
The suit will be auctioned in Gujarat to raise money for a project he is championing to clean the Ganges river.
The auction, which starts on Wednesday, will last three days. Bids have already reached more than £120,000 on the suit which is said to have originally cost between £10,000 – £15,000 including the material.
According to reports, the highest bid so far has been made by a Gujarati NRI.
“People are very generous in this area and we hope that it will raise a lot of money for a good cause,” said Milind Torawane, the municipal commissioner of Surat where the auction is being held.
Modi’s choice of the navy suit damaged the image of a man who in last year’s election had played up his humble beginnings as a tea-seller and his personal sacrifices for India’s advancement.
Political rivals, including Congress party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, attacked the prime minister saying that Mr Modi should concentrate on delivering on his promises to India’s poorest rather than impress the US President.
About a third of the world’s extreme poor live in India, up from a fifth in 1981, the World Bank says.
The country lags on other social indicators such as child malnutrition.
For the auction, Modi donated about 450 objects given since being appointed prime minister in May after winning the biggest parliamentary majority in three decades.
The gifts he has received include silver cufflinks, a ceramic vase, a carpet and a silver box with precious stones, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.