Datta Phuge Image Credit: Courtesy: Ganesh Shinde

Mumbai: After 30-year-old businessman Samrat Moze followed the footsteps of late legislator Ramesh Wanjale and caused a major stir in Pune early this year by moving around the place wearing golden ornaments — weighing 8.5 kilograms — on his body, a third gold man has now surfaced in the same city of western Maharashtra.

The new gold man, Datta Phuge, has stitched himself a shirt made out of the precious yellow metal weighing approximately 3.5 kilograms. The shirt is in addition to 6 to 6.5 kilograms of golden ornaments — including chains, bracelets and rings and necklaces — that he has been wearing for the past few years.

In effect, this “10 kilogram gold man” — as 42-year-old Phuge prefers to call himself — is being valued in terms of money at around Rs3.25 crore, of which the golden shirt — his new possession — is a part and it is worth Rs1.27 crore.

Apart from wearing so many golden ornaments, what made him to stitch himself a golden shirt?

“Unlike many, I have no passion for high-end luxury vehicles like Audi or purchasing something else that is fancy. I had money and wanted to invest in gold. Even while investing in gold, I wanted to do something that would earn me the title of being a gold man. Then the idea of stitching himself a golden shirt came to me when I visited a jewellery shop a month ago,” Phuge told “Gulf News” over telephone from Pune.

A finance broker by profession, Phuge is the husband of an NCP corporator from Pune Seema Phuge. “I am a Maratha (a person belonging to a warrior caste). Marathas have fascination for wearing golden ornaments. I am no different”.

Ask him as to how did he land so much of money to purchase such a huge quantity of gold. “I had landed property at Chakan near Pune. In 2005, there was a proposal to set up an airport in that area. As a result, land prices shot up phenomenally. Making most of the situation, I sold two acres of land that I owned. Whatever the money I earned from the sale, I invested in a financial firm which helped me get sizeable returns. Of the money earned, I have re-invested on gold,” Phuge said.

According to Phuge, velvet cloth has been used from inside to stitch the golden shirt. “Though there is gold on its exteriors, it is stitched in such a way that it can be folded and kept inside a shelf like any other shirt. In all, It took jewellers 17 days to have the golden shirt stitched,” he said. The shirt has been stitched by Ranka Jewellers, a leading jeweler firm based in Pune, using 22 karat gold.

Asked if the shirt is going to be his permanent possession, Phuge replied in the affirmative and said: “Yes I am going to keep it with me till I am alive”.

Did his wife Seema being from the NCP – a party that has made no bones about its dislike for people displaying their wealth — come in the way of his seeking to become a gold man? “If my wife is an NCP corporator, it is because of the social work that she has been doing. As far I am concerned, I am a professional in my own right. It was always my dream to become a gold man. I have become one”.

Despite being a finance professional now, Phuge has an ambition of becoming a Member of Parliament (MP) some day in the future. “If NCP fields me as a candidate in the forthcoming Lok Sabha poll from Shirur constituency in Pune district, I am more than willing to contest,” Phuge said in a matter-of-fact manner.

On her part, Phuge’s wife Seema seeks to distance herself from her husband’s fascination for gold. “With no gold ornaments on my body, do I look like a person who has fascination for gold?. I like social work and will continue to serve the people by being a part of the NCP,” she said.

It was Wanjale who incidentally came to be known as the first-ever gold man of Pune. However, after the untimely demise of the “original” gold man in June last year, Moze sought to replace Wanjale and earn the sobriquet of being the new “gold man” of Pune.

Incidentally, all the three gold men have had something common among them. They have chosen to associate themselves with the ruling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by federal Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

Late Wanjale and Moze may have been denied the NCP nomination to contest the Maharashtra Assembly and Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) polls on the ground that the party disliked their love for display of gold, but that has not come in the way of Phuge in “dreaming” to contest the Lok Sabha polls on a Pawar-led party ticket.

A known social worker, Wanjale — laden with 2.5 kilogram golden ornaments on his body — had approached the NCP for a ticket to contest the 2009 Maharashtra Assembly polls from Pune’s Khadakvasla constituency. The NCP leadership refused Wanjale a party ticket on the ground that a vulgar display of wealth by him would have a negative impact on the party’s image.

However, the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) duly obliged Wanjale with its nomination. Wanjale not only won the October 2009 Assembly poll by trouncing the NCP candidate Vikas Dangat and others in the poll, but he also went onto serve the people effectively for the following 17 months. A hard-working and people-friendly MLA whom his constituents looked up to, he also became one of the popular members in the Assembly.

It is small wonder that when 47-year-old Wanjale died of a heart attack on June 10,2011, thousands of people had participated in his funeral procession.

Subsequently, Moze desperately lobbied with the NCP leadership for a ticket to contest the PMC election in January this year. However, the NCP did not oblige him for the same reason for which it had denied nomination to Wanjale earlier.

On its part, the NCP has swiftly distanced itself from the display of gold by Phuge.

Reacting to the golden shirt that Phuge has stitched for himself, NCP’s Pune-based spokesperson Ankush Kakade said: “Datta Phuge is not an active worker of the NCP. Yes. His wife Seema Phuge is an NCP corporator. Our party does not approve of the vulgar display of wealth as being done by Datta Phuge. It is his personal matter. The NCP has nothing to do with it”.