New Delhi: Last month, as the nation was celebrating its 65th Republic Day and the historic presence of President Barack Obama as the first American head of state to be invited as chief guest, the focus shifted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's monogrammed black suit, which generated substantial controversy and occupied considerable space in the media.
Media reports have claimed that the price of the suit that Prime Minister Modi wore during his interaction with President Barack Obama at Hyderabad House last month was apparently Rs 10 lakhs.
However, in an exclusive interview given to ANI, Rameshkumar Bhikabhai Virani, the man who gave the suit to Prime Minister Modi, rubbished all speculation linked to it.
Rameshkumar Bhikabhai said," I am from Gujarat. I presented this suit to him (Prime Minister Modi) when I attended the recent Vibrant Gujarat Summit. I gave it while extending an invitation to him to attend my son's wedding on January 26."
When specifically asked to give his reaction to reports appearing in the media about the pinstripe suit, Rameshkumar said, "My son's name is Smit Virani. I gave this gift to my elder brother (Prime Minister Modi) on behalf of my son. My son had this idea of making this monogrammed suit. He said he wanted to give a surprise to Modiji."
When pressed for a comment on what was the actual cost of the suit, Rameshkumar said, "People can say anything. I can confirm that what is being said about its cost is not the correct amount. My son does not have the guts to spend that kind of money or that amount."
"My son's wedding was the first event our family was celebrating since my father's death two years ago. I met him (Prime Minister Modi) and insisted that he attend the wedding as an elder of the family. While accepting the suit as a gift, he told me that he (Prime Minister Modi) was very busy for the next two to three days, but promised to wear it. But he also said that he will give the suit to charity. I said that his accepting the suit from me was a big honour in itself, and it wasn't important for me as to what he did with it after wearing it," Rameshkumar said.
"The fact is that Modiji wore this on the day of my son's wedding on January 26. It was a blessing for us. There can be no price attached to this," he added.
When asked to respond to political criticism of Modi and his suit, Rameshkumar told ANI, "I am not a politician; I am a businessman. I am very far away from politics. For me, it is invaluable that Modiji wore this suit on the day of my son's wedding."
"He told me that this suit would be auctioned and the proceeds will be sent to a Ganga-related charity," Rameshkumar said.
The NRI businessman said his family's ties with Prime Minister Modi go back to over four decades, and added that there were many memorable moments that both shared during all these years.
"Whenever Narendrabhai used to meet us, my father used to give him a dhoti and a jubba (an waist-length garment, usually with long sleeves). I used to ask my father why he insisted on giving Narendrabhai Modi clothes, and my father said it was an expression of his love for Narendrabhai. Through sickness or in times of happiness, Narendrabhai has been a part of our family," said Rameshkumar.
Prime Minister Modi's suit is expected to be put up for auction in Surat from tomorrow. The auction will be on for three days. The proceeds from the auctioned suit will go to the Namami Gange Trust Fund, a programme for the cleaning of the River Ganga.
In the past also, the Prime Minister has been known to donate his personal gifts for a noble cause.
When Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he had raised over Rs 95 crores for girl child education in the state.