Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been making waves ever since he stepped into politics is known to not have a personal life. He is known to visit his mother Heeraben Modi but no one else.
Not many know that India’s Prime Minister was married to a lady named Jashodaben in 1968, when she was 17 ( there are various versions as to when they got married, some versions say Modi was 13, some say he was 18). This was an arranged marriage according to the traditions of Ghanchi caste in Vadnagar, Gujarat. PM Modi was also a teenager then. Their engagement took place when he was 13.
In 2014, Modi’s elder brother, Somabhai Modi had issued a statement that the marriage was forced upon the PM by his parents and he was very young then. His elder brother also said that PM Modi walked out of the marriage soon after it was solemnised and that it was never consummated. This statement was given when PM Modi declared in his poll affidavit as Prime Ministerial candidate that he was married and his wife’s name was Jashodaben. According to a report in India Today dated April 10, 2014, PM Modi had left the spouse field blank in all his Gujarat Assembly polls since 2001.
So who is Jashodaben? And what happened to their marriage?
Jashodaben was born in 1952 in Brahmanwada, Gujarat (then Bombay State). She was brought up by her father, as her mother died when she was just two years old. Two years after her marriage with PM Modi, her father passed away as well.
Soon after their marriage, Modi left to wander in the Himalayas, to practice Sanyas. Jashodaben, who was then alone, resumed school. She passed her SSC in 1972. When Modi returned from the Himalayas, he went to Ahmedabad to join his uncle in his business while Jashodaben studied further to become a teacher. She taught at a primary school from 1978-1990 in Banaskantha district of Gujarat. Currently she lives a simple life in Unjha, Gujarat. Her pension is ₹14,000 a month.
“Jashoda would read and watch every bit of news about Narenbhai. Despite being abandoned, Jashoda never spoke ill of him. That is a true Indian woman for you,” Vasanti, sister of Narendra Modi, once told the Times of India.
“Her prayers have been answered as Narendrabhai has publicly accepted her as his wife. We are very happy. We all pray for him to become PM,” said Kamlesh Modi, Jashoda’s elder brother who runs a grocery shop in Unjha to Times Of India. The same report says, ‘Kamlesh said that Jashoda never considered re-marrying after Modi left her 45 years back to become an RSS pracharak. She gave up wearing footwear for four months seeking PM candidature for her husband and now is on a once-a-day diet to see her wish fulfilled.’
In an interview with the Indian Express, Jashodaben said, “We married when I was 17… I had quit studies once I went to his place and remember him saying he wanted me to pursue my education. He would mostly talk to me about completing my education…He told me once that “I will be travelling across the country and will go as and where I please; what will you do following me?” When I came to Vadnagar to live with his family, he told me “why did you come to your in-laws’ house when you are still so young, you must instead focus on pursuing your studies”. The decision to leave was my own and there was never any conflict between us.”
In the same interview she also talks about her life, “I mostly start my day by 4 am and begin with prayers to Ambe Ma (Goddess Durga). I spend all my time in Bhakti (prayer). I mostly live with my elder brother Ashok Modi who lives in Unjha but I keep visiting the home of my other brother who lives in Brahman Vada near Unjha whenever I feel like. I feel I have got good brothers who have supported me.”
She made her first public appearance in June 2014 at the funeral of politician Gopinath Munde. In November 2015, her name popped up in the media when her passport application was rejected, calling it as ‘incomplete’ when she could not produce a marriage certificate or a joint affidavit from her husband. Also in November 2014, she had filed an RTI asking about her rights as the spouse of the Prime Minister, after she was assigned police protection in May 2014. As per Wikipedia, in December, the Intelligence Bureau denied her request for information about orders, saying that the law has an exemption which applies in this case. Jashodaben uses the name “Jashodaben Narendrabhai Modi”, which is her married name. The replies she has got from the government have been in her maiden name – Jashodaben, daughter of Chimanlal Modi.
She also told the Indian Express, “Once I had come to meet him with Hiraba (Modi’s mother) at the RSS shakha in Vadnagar. He had hurt his hand and I put medicine on it. Another time he had acted in a play called ‘Ek Phool, Do Maali’, which I went for. After the play got over, I told him he was very good in it. If it is in my fate that we are meant to be together then we will be. I have also moved forward in life because of him. I have never interfered in his life and nor has he.”
While many people have found the treatment given to her as unfair, many have also thought that a marriage that was solemnised in childhood cannot be imposed on a person. Many women look up to Jashodaben as an ‘ideal Indian wife’ who remains devoted to her husband, while many others think that she should have a life and an identity of her own.
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