India’s PM front-runner suddenly admits that he’s not a bachelor — and hasn’t been for decades

April 10, 2014

Indian leader Narendra Modi at a political meeting in New Delhi on April 7.meeting to announce the party’s election manifesto on April 7. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Narendra Modi, the front-runner and head of India’s nationalist BJP party, has filled out forms to run for office four times in recent years. Each time, where it asks for the name of the spouse, he’s left the field blank.  

On Wednesday, he filled out an electoral form again in preparation for India’s election.

But this time, for “spouse,” he wrote a name: Jashodaben.

No: Modi, 63, is no newlywed. Nobody is congratulating him.

He’s been married to Jashodaben since both were very young, says one of his brothers. They were reportedly together for only a few days. That’s been an open secret — and a campaign theme for his opponents — for some time. After today, it’s going to be a bigger campaign theme.

Now, if he’s to be believed, he knows little or nothing about the woman he listed as his wife.

He wrote “not known” in the affidavit as to further information on his wife, such as the details of her income and assets, reports the Guardian.

Time.com’s headline Thursday summed it up: “So It Turns Out That India’s ‘Bachelor’ Politician Is Technically Married.” 

Previous media reports suggested he walked away from an arranged marriage when just a child, but this has never been confirmed by the ascetic 63-year-old, who would frequently extoll the merits of his single status during stump speeches. ‘I have no family ties, I am single. Who will I be corrupt for?’ he said during campaigning in February.

Modi isn’t the only one rediscovering his wife.

As the news was filtering out about his declaration, an Indian magazine called “Open” claimed to have found Modi’s wife in a small village in the state of Gujarat:

She is clad in an ill-fitting blouse and a mod­est printed sari. Somewhat stooped, her face is wrinkled, her hands have obviously seen hard times and her hair is pulled back in a tight bun, making her look severe. Dirt grips the cracks of her slipper-clad feet. She could have been any woman in Rajosana village, Gujarat. But then, she is Jashodaben Chimanlal Modi. Everyone in this village knows her as Narendra Modi’s wife.

According to the magazine, Jashodaben Modi wasn’t sufficiently educated for her husband when they had their arranged marriage. “A few days after the mar­riage, Jashodaben was sent back to her father Chimanlal’s house to complete her education.”

And that, apparently, was that.

So far, Modi has not said anything about his new status.

His brothers are defending him, however.

Modi’s elder brother Somabhai, reported The Hindu, said the marriage should be seen as a “social formality” that happened nearly 50 years ago.

Our parents had not studied much and we were a poor family. To them, Narendra was like any other child. In such context, our parents conducted his marriage in a tender age with Jashodaben, but it turned out to be just a social formality for the sake of it. Service to the nation was his only religion. So he left home and material pleasures. His marriage was just a formality as he left the house soon after his marriage. After leaving the house, he has not kept any contact with the family.

 

 

Fred Barbash, the editor of Morning Mix, is a former National Editor and London Bureau Chief for the Washington Post.
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