Wife ‘ready’ to live with Modi
“Agar wo lene aayen to main taiyar hoon (If he comes to take me, I am ready),” Jashodaben, a 62-year-old retired schoolteacher, was quoted on the Zee News website as saying in Mumbai, where she was meeting relatives.
“This is impossible; she should understand that,” the Prime Minister’s elder brother Somabhai Modi, who runs an old-age home in Mehsana town, told this newspaper.
“Even our mother and I never visited him at his Gandhinagar residence these past 13 years. We didn’t even attend his swearing-in in Delhi.”
Modi had left Jashodaben soon after their marriage in 1968, when both were teenagers. She returned to her family home and now lives with her two brothers at Ishwarwada village in Mehsana district, but has never complained against him publicly.
Modi acknowledged her in public for the first time before this year’s general election, naming her in his nomination papers after the Election Commission banned candidates from leaving any column blank. This pushed Jashodaben into the limelight, while political opponents’ attempts to corner Modi over his treatment of his wife proved unsuccessful.
However, none of Jashodaben’s publicly expressed wishes since then — to worship at the Ambaji temple with her husband and to attend his swearing-in — have been fulfilled. She, however, has been given SPG cover, to which the Prime Minister’s immediate family is entitled.
Jashodaben’s brother Ashok Modi told this newspaper over the phone from Mehsana that his sister was well within her rights to want to live with her husband.
“She hasn’t divorced him even though Modi wanted a divorce,” Ashok said. Somabhai corroborated the claim.
In 1987, when Modi was an RSS pracharak (whole-timer), he and Somabhai had met Jashodaben in Ahmedabad to work out a mutual divorce but “my sister did not agree”, Ashok said.
“She told her husband she would not divorce him at any cost and that she would wait for him.”
Ashok stressed that his sister did not want to create any problems for the Prime Minister, and would “go with Modi only if he comes to take her”.
But Somabhai said: “If she had approached me, I would have told her she should not hope for such an unrealistic thing.”
He expressed unhappiness that Jashodaben was speaking to the media and “attending functions”.
“Earlier, she and her brothers never spoke to the media. They always said that the couple’s separation was their personal affair. But now, not so,” Somabhai said.
A day after Modi officially acknowledged Jashodaben, Somabhai had issued a statement explaining the marriage had been forced on a teenaged Modi and that he had quickly walked out of it.
Somabhai had said Modi’s decision to leave his wife and his previous silence on her should be seen in the context of his life as a “sanyasi” living away from his entire family and serving the nation.
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