Government did not tap me, but will gift Gandhi items: Mallya (Lead)

March 6th, 2009 - 10:04 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 6 (IANS) Liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who acquired Mahatma Gandhi’s memorabilia at an auction in New York with a $1.8 million (Rs. 93.18 million) bid, Friday said he would gift the items to the government though he has not been contacted by Indian officials for this.
“I am looking forward to seeing what I bought - and hope it will be sooner rather than later,” Mallya told CNN-IBN from France, hours after his representative clinched the deal at the auction by Antiquorum Auctioneers in New York.

“My decision has nothing do with what government wanted to do. As soon as I came to know about auctions of such items, I prepared myself for this. I was bidding on the phone and I am delighted to win this,” he said.

He said he has “not been approached” by anyone in the Indian government, but added: “I will always have the emotional satisfaction of having bought them (the Mahatma’s possessions), and gift them to the Government of India.”

Gandhi’s steel-rimmed spectacles, a pair of sandals, a Zenith pocket watch, an eating bowl and a plate were put under the hammer, as scheduled, by Antiquorum in New York Thursday (early Friday India time) despite an outcry by Indians, mounting Indian government pressure and even a reported change of heart on the part of the US-based collector to auction the items.

But the owner of the United Breweries Group, Kingfisher Airlines and a cricket league team, who was among 40 registered bidders including several Indian Americans, was ready and went up to a whopping $1.8 million to clinch the deal.

The business tycoon said he did not do this to “generate any publicity or goodwill for me”.

Mallya said he wished the Mahatma’s articles are displayed in a museum either in Bangalore or Mysore.

“I am a proud Indian. This will be my gift to the government of India. There is a sense of pride that nobody can take away. I am looking forward to seeing what I have got.”

Mallya bought Tipu Sultan’s sword from a London auction house in 2004.

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