Congress leader Kapil Sibal today raked up the issue of auction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monogrammed suit, saying sarcastically that the country could see the Finance Minister referring to this innovative way of funding public projects in his next budget speech.
He also wondered whether a standing committee would be set up involving industry and trade bodies like CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM to design such auctions so that these could become a regular feature for public good.
Contrasting the whopping Rs 4.31 crore bid a Gujarat- based businessman for Modi’s monogrammed bandhgala suit last month with the much lesser amounts fetched in auctions of memorabilia of Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln in the past, the Congress leader asked, “Is our national pride linked to the here and now? Is our philanthropy directly proportionate to immediate fame and rewards?”
Writing under the title “The Festival of Auctions” on his blog, the former Telecom Minister said, “We have the wonderful specter of a Gujarat businessman gaining access, again through an auction, to a pin-striped monogrammed suit that caught the attention of the world by giving warmth to a 56-inch chest! The auction winning bid, was close to a million dollars!”
“The significance of this auction cannot be minimised, as it has with one drop of a hammer, surpassed the earnings from the sale of memorabilia of truly great statesmen of the past!”
Wondering whether the businessman from Gujarat is waiting for opportunities to acquire more items, including coloured waistcoats and stylish kurtas, to set up a unique museum in the future, Sibal said, “If that is the case, can we channelise the sentiment for a larger good?…Whatever be the Gujarat businessman’s motivation, I hope, it sets a trend.”
Modi’s suit with his name woven into it in gold pinstripes which he wore during US President Barack Obama’s visit here on Republic Day had had kicked up a political storm that continued even when the suit was auctioned last month.
In remarks laced with sarcasm, the former minister said that perhaps this is a great way of funding public projects, and getting our sluggish economy to move.
“You can kill two birds with one stone… Perhaps there are others like the Gujarat businessman, waiting in the wings to buy politicians’ vests, shirts, and kurtas. Maybe even some expensive pens and signature watches.
“We could have the Finance Minister, in his next Budget Speech, refer to this innovative way of funding public projects! He can provide a roadmap for such auctions and transparency in conducting them, as his government promises to do in every aspect of governance,” Sibal said in a stinging comment.
Sibal went on to say that “may be the country can involve the business community and conduct spot auctions”.
“A standing committee could be set up involving the CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM to design such auctions so that they can become a regular feature for public good.
“…For posterity to remember, we could even allocate space in Delhi for a museum of such memorabilia where people can line up and feast their eyes, on the sacrifices made by those in power,” Sibal said.
Sibal, who had come under attack for his ‘zero loss’ remark in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, noted that there would be no input costs to absorb, no overheads to pass on to the consumer in such auctions unlike that of spectrum, coal, and other natural resources, where only time will tell who gains, and who pays eventually.
“Mahatma Gandhi won us freedom with the moral courage that shook the foundations of the imperial empire. Abraham Lincoln was instrumental in forging the path of a nation by preserving the Union during the Civil War and emancipated slaves. Both died at the hands of assassins.
“Both sacrificed their lives for generations to come, and yet their memorabilia did not fetch the kind of price that the branded monogrammed suit fetched,” he noted.
Sibal was also critical of the “excitement” around auctions of telecom and coal, saying the government is “ecstatic” over the idea of raking in huge returns from corporate houses competing for vital national resources that are in short supply.
“The Finance Minister is smiling because it helps him to manage the fiscal deficit…The media is abuzz with excitement around the telecom spectrum auction and the resultant bonanza for the Government…
“Are we so naive to believe, that the auction winners will, out of the goodness of their hearts, absorb the additional cost they’re now burdened with, and not make plans to collect it from their end consumers?” he asked.