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Bling goes pop: Bappi busts a golden-goose myth

Calcutta, April 10: One big the-nation-wants-to-know question was answered today with a whimper rather than a bang as Bappi Lahiri, aka the King of Bling, told the Election Commission in his affidavit that he owns only 754 gram of gold jewellery (worth Rs 17.67 lakh).

The BJP Lok Sabha candidate from Serampore is, in fact, not even the golden-most member of the Lahiri home with wife Chitrani declaring 967 gram of gold ornaments (worth Rs 20.74 lakh).

“We were, frankly, a little shocked to see he owns so little gold. You look at him and you think he owns kilos and kilos of gold jewellery, but that’s not true. His wife, a homemaker, has more gold,” said an election official from Hooghly who examined the affidavit.

Bappi told The Telegraph late today: “I have declared what I have. Unlike others, I wear my gold at all times. That’s why it’s become my image and people call me the Gold Man. That’s all.

“These gold chains and pendants I’ve been collecting from 1975. None of them are new and mostly — Hare Krishna Hare Rama, Ganpati, Satyanarayan, Hanuman — all god-related pendants.”

What about the giant gold ‘B’ always dangling from one of the many chains?

“Only that ‘B’ my wife had gifted me at the time of marriage, that too in the late 1970s,” smiled the Disco King of Bollywood.

Among the multiple chains and pendants that have continued to shine on his chest is his “lucky” gold Hare Rama Hare Krishna chain that his mother had gifted him after the success of Zakhmee, his first hit film, in 1975.

The other is a large Ganesha pendant that he loves to flaunt and with good reason. “Michael Jackson, when he came to Bombay, only I meet. He loved my Ganpati Baba’s chain,” he had told this newspaper a few years ago.

The man who redefined the sound of Bollywood with Mithun Chakraborty’s Disco Dancer in 1982, was crowned the Gold Man after 7Up did a “sone ke nimbu” ad with him in 2009 highlighting his gold fixation.

This fixation can be traced to his “inspiration and idol” Elvis Presley.

“He wearing cross like this and flashy chashma… dark glasses. It is why I started wearing chains from childhood,” he had told this newspaper, pointing to his chunky gold chain.

But ask him about his gold buy-buy and it would be apparent that he is not a regular shopper.

“I don’t buy gold on Dhanteras… my Mrs always purchases some beautiful silver bartan because gold we have got so many,” he had said during a chat with this newspaper some years ago, adding with a laugh: “Today’s gold price, you know? High price!”

Even on the silver stakes, Bappi is beaten by wife Chitrani. If he owns silver ornaments of 4.62kg (worth Rs 2.20 lakh), his wife owns silver jewellery of 8.9kg (worth Rs 3.59 lakh).

In the 2012-13 financial year, Bappi earned Rs 32.63 lakh. “We have no reason to believe, yet, that he possesses undisclosed assets,” said an Election Commission source.

But why catch the eye of income tax officials with this display of gold, this newspaper had asked him months before he took the political plunge.

“I have got gold secure all the time so income tax people will not be able to take the gold from my neck!” Bappi had laughed, adding, “Gold is my pehchaan.”