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(PM dressed  in pinstriped suit. Image courtesy: PIB)
 
Once bitten, twice shy. This idiom seems to have gripped Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s persona, if his cautious approach to fashion-related gifts presented to him is taken as a cue. 
Mr. Modi has apparently become wary of using gifts even of insignificant value such as a Cuban shirt and a hat, leave aside expensive ones like gold and diamond made cufflink.
The Code of Conduct (CoC) for Union and State Ministers specified the norms for acceptance of gifts and their submission to Government treasury named Toshakhana. CoC also mentions the condition under which Toshakhana returns any gift valued below Rs 5000 to the recipient. The minister is given the option to buy a gift valued above this cut-off limit. 
Indian & foreign Media fancied Mr. Modi donning different hats on different occasions when he served as Gujarat Chief Minister. The news coverage reached a new high during June 2014 when the US media went gaga over Mr. Modi’s dressing sense. The Washington Post said: “The world has a new fashion icon. And no,  it’s not Valdimir Putin, despite his fitness regime – it’s India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.”
Times Magazine foresaw Mr Modi as “apparently the next big think in Indian fashion.” Such adulation perhaps prompted him into donning a personalized, pinstriped expensive suit in January 2015 during US President Barack Obama’s visit to India. 
The Indian Media focused on Modi’s suit, which was drummed up as Rs 10-lakh gift from a Gujarati businessman.  This served as ammunition for the opposition parties. They took a dig at PM for wearing a suit with his name embroidered into golden pinstripes. 
The very next month, Mr. Modi tried to cast off the fashion icon label by facilitating auction of the pinstriped suit and other gifts. The proceeds of the auction were earmarked for Ganga clean-up mission. The controversy should have ended with the suit getting sold off at a whopping bid of Rs 4.31 crore. The Congress has, however, kept the issue live. 
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi enlivened the controversy by describing Modi Government as “suit-boot ki sarkar” in Parliament during May. On another occasion, Mr. Gandhi said: "No PM in the country had ever donned a suit worth Rs 10 lakh. He's fast becoming a fashion icon ignoring the common man.”
Against this background, a reality check on gifts presented to PM by various dignitaries is called for. 
Mr. Modi was gifted One Cuban shirt of “no commercial value” and two kurtas (shirts) valued at Rs 4000 that his office deposited in Toshakhana in April this year. Toshakhana returned these gifts back to the recipient. 
PM also deposited in Toshakhana a hat and two pieces of cloth during June 2015. These gifts of “no commercial value are yet to be collected by the recipient”, says an official comment on the Status of gifts. The “Yet to be collected” does not necessarily mean the recipient is willing to take back the gift.
Mr. Modi also submitted a packet of cloths valued at Rs 1500 to Toshakha in June 2015. The gift is “Yet to be collected by the recipient” according to latest official update on Toshakhana. Same is the case with another packet of clothes (of no commercial value) that was deposited during the same period. 
He also deposited in Toshakhana two jackets valued at Rs 2500 each during June 2015. The official remark on these gifts is a standard one: “Yet to be collected by the recipient.”  Ditto is the case with a pair of Kurta Paijama valued at Rs 2500 that Mr. Modi deposited in Toshakhana during the same month.
As for fashion accessories, PM deposited a gift of Gold and diamond made cufflink valued at Rs 75,000 in Toshakhana during February.  He submitted a gift box containing a necklace and a pair of ear rings valued at Rs 35 lakh to Toshakhana in April 2015.
Mr. Modi deposited a pair of silver cufflink valued at Rs 2600 and another such pair valued at Rs 1600 in Toshakhana during October 2014. Both items carry the same trite comment- “Yet to be...”
Selfies-savvy and digitally enlightened PM has not yet decided whether to buy from Toshakhana LG mobile phone with box and accessories valued at Rs 15000, (b) Samsung Mobile without box and accessories worth Rs 25,000 and (c) LG Watch worth Rs 20,000. He deposited these gifts in Toshakana during June 2015 As put by the official comment, “Option of the recipient pending.”
According to CoC, “A Minister may receive gifts when he goes abroad or from foreign dignitaries in India. Such gifts fall into two categories. The first category will include gifts which are of symbolic nature, like a sword of honour, ceremonial robes etc. and which can be retained by the recipients. The second category of gifts would be those which are not of symbolic nature. If its value is less than Rs.5,000/- it can be retained by the Minister. If, however, there is any doubt about the estimated value of the gift, the mattershould be referred to the Toshakhana for valuation. If the value of the gift, on assessment is found to be within the prescribed limit of Rs.5,000/- the gift will be returned to the Minister. If it exceeds Rs.5,000/- the recipient will have the option to purchase it from the Toshakhana by paying the difference between the value as assessed by the Toshakhana and Rs.5,000/-. Only gifts of household goods which are retained by the Toshakhana, such as carpets, paintings, furniture etc. exceeding Rs.5,000/- in value, will be kept in Rashtrapati Bhavan, Prime Minister’s House or Raj Bhavan as State property.” 
 
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