Sunday, January 25, 2015

Washington Post focuses on Modi's estranged wife, calls her India's First Lady, wonders why she's abandoned

By Our Representative
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s estranged wife Jashodaben has finally got international attention. Premier US daily, “The Washington Post” (January 25), has taken note of her state on the day American President Barack Obama arrived in India, commenting, “She’s waiting for him, as she has been all her life. But when IPrime Minister Narendra Modi dines with Barack and Michelle Obama at a glittering banquet Sunday night, his wife won’t be by his side.” It adds, “Modi, 64, kept his teenage marriage a secret for decades during his political ascent and only last year admitted that his wife exists.”
A retired teacher "who lives in a small town in Modi’s home state of Gujarat", the daily says, Jashodaben has “not heard from her husband in years“, yet “she says she still hopes to join him one day in the capital as India’s first lady.” It quotes her as saying, “If he calls me, I will go. I hear all his speeches on TV. I feel very good when I hear him speak. I want him to fulfill all his promises to the people. That’s my prayer to God.”
In a report titled “Abandoned as a child bride, India’s first lady still hopes her husband will call”, the daily quotes a Modi biographer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay to say that the exactly nature of the marriage between the two is not known. “There would have been a ritual that joined them together as man and wife, but they would not have lived together. The family said that the two of them never cohabitated.”
“Modi left shortly thereafter to wander in the Himalayas with little more than a change of clothing in his rucksack. A devout Hindu, Modi was contemplating religious life. Instead, he returned to Gujarat and became a volunteer, or pracharak, in the RSS, a Hindu nationalist group. The young workers, pracharaks, are discouraged from marrying or maintaining close family ties”, the daily says.
Authored by Annie Gowen, “The Washington Post” India bureau chief, the writeup says, “Modi never returned to his wife but never divorced her, even as he became the high-profile chief minister of Gujarat and last year, India’s premier. He never publicly spoke of his wife, and journalists who sniffed around on the topic as Modi’s fame grew were privately discouraged from doing so.”
“Jashodaben Modi saw her husband only once when he was chief minister, at a ceremony at a local temple, according to her brother, Ashok Modi. She lives with her brother in the small town of Unjha, in the northern part of the state“, Gowen says quoting her brother, adding, “He had come to the [goddess temple] for a prayer. They did not speak. They did not even say a word to each other. They just met for five seconds.”
The daily recalls, “The prime minister only officially acknowledged his wife’s existence when he filed his affidavit in April as a candidate for Parliament in the town of Vadodara…During the election, the wife disappeared for a time, reportedly on a barefoot pilgrimage, in her husband’s honour. After he became prime minister, she was assigned an official security detail. But it has not been a happy experience.”
Meanwhile, the daily says, “Nearly a dozen guards watch her 24/7 and follow her in a shiny car as she takes auto rickshaws and public transportation... When she visits friends or relatives, they have to cook for the guards…” It quotes her brother as saying, “The security travels in an air-conditioned car. But my sister takes buses, trains and auto rickshaws. What kind of justice is this? Should a prime minister's wife not get a car?”

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