Married at 17 to a bride about his age, BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi has admitted for the first time under oath that he has a wife.
In his nomination form for the Vadodara Lok Sabha seat, which he filed amid much fanfare on Wednesday, he entered the name of Jashodaben as his wife. She is a retired school teacher in Brahmanwada, a village about 35km from Modi’s hometown, Vadnagar.
Now 63, the former RSS pracharak had left the column blank in the last four state assembly elections in 2001, 2002, 2007 and 2012. This was first openly challenged in pamphlets distributed by Congress in January 2001 when Modi contested the by-election to the Rajkot-2 assembly seat, three months after becoming Gujarat CM.
His opponents hope that this disclosure will dent his popularity among women who might empathize with Jashodaben, whom he never returned to after two weeks of their nuptials.
The declaration is reported to have come after strict legal advice that he come clean on the marriage which, his family members say, was never consummated.
As per the Representation of the People Act, 1951, every candidate is required to declare even assets held in the name of the spouse. In his nomination form, Modi has said he has no information about Jashodaben’s income, IT returns and PAN details.
The Supreme Court in November last year had refused to entertain a PIL accusing Modi of leaving the column on marital status blank in the nomination papers for the Maninagar assembly seat in 2012.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi rejected the plea on the ground that such issues should be dealt with by the Election Commission. This time the EC had said that candidates must fill every column of the declaration or face the risk of disqualification.
In the run-up to Modi filing his nomination papers, there had been intense speculation as to how he would describe his marital status. Addressing a rally at Sujanpur in Himachal Pradesh in mid-February, Modi had said, “I have no familial ties, who would I ever try to benefit through corruption?” To which Arvind Kejriwal had responded by saying, “Modi has told us that ‘I’m not married, I don’t have a family. Why will I want to indulge in corruption? ‘But nobody looks after me like my wife. She takes care of me and if I ever do something wrong, she stops me.”
Modi also listed his assets — amounting to about Rs 1.50 crore — in his nomination form. They include cash in hand worth Rs 29,700, bank deposits of about Rs 44 lakh, infrastructure bonds of Rs 20,000 and National Savings Certificates worth Rs 4.34 lakh. He had purchased real estate worth Rs 2.47 lakh, the market value of which is now about Rs 1 crore.