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Mallya buys Gandhi memorabilia
NEW DELHI, MAR 6 (IANS/TOI):
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Published on 7 Mar. 2009 12:54 AM IST
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Liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who acquired Mahatma Gandhi’s memorabilia at an auction in New York with a $1.8 million bid, said on Friday that he had not been contacted by Indian officials on this and would gift the items to the government. “I bid independently... I wanted to get back the items to the country... I am not sure if anyone was aware that I was bidding,” chairman of the United Breweries Group said. “Nobody from the government advised me on the bid... Our national treasure was up for grabs, for me it was emotional,” he said. The Indian government had on Friday claimed that “it was in constant touch with Vijay Mallya” for the auction. “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. “I don’t know what Ambika Soni has said but I acted on my own,” Mallya said. He said he had “not been approached” by anyone in the Indian government, but added: “I will always have the emotional satisfaction of having bought them and gifted 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 Auctioneers in New York Thursday despite an outcry by Indians, mounting Indian government pressure and even a reported change of heart on the part of the US collector to auction the items. In New York, confusion had prevailed for hours in the run up to Thursday’s auction. Before the auction began, bidders had registered from Australia, Germany, Austria, India, Canada and the US, among other countries. In comparison, there were only six registered bidders in October for a watch belonging to Albert Einstein, which sold for almost $600,000. It is also believed that collector James Otis “had a double mind at the last moment” about letting the Gandhi memorabilia go under the hammer. But that didn’t change anything as the auction went ahead. The bidders included a dozen people in the room, 30 people on the phone, and about two dozen people who submitted written bids. The second highest bid was a $1.75 million bid submitted online from Britain, said the auction house. The bidders included a dozen people in the room, 30 people on the phone, and about two dozen people who submitted written bids. The second highest bid was a $1.75 million bid submitted online from Britain, said the auction house. Mallya, who bought Mahatma Gandhi’s personal belongings for $1.8 million, said he was bringing the memorabilia to Delhi and would be “presenting these to the government”. In 2004, he had bought Tipu Sultan’s sword from a London auction house. It will take a while for the Gandhi memorabilia to come back home. The US justice department has asked the auction house to hold the lot for two weeks pending a resolution between the new owner and the US and Indian governments. While Mallya wants to gift the memorabilia to the Indian government, Mahatma Gandhi had appointed the Navjivan Trust as the sole heir of his personal belongings through a will registered in 1929. But who will finally keep these precious items is not a big issue at the moment for most Indians who are elated that the Mahatma’s personal belongings would finally find their way back home.

 
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