The man she claims is still her “husband” is the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and is considered the frontrunner for the top job this year. But Jashodaben, 62, a retired school teacher who was married to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi when she was 17 — and separated after about three years — is far removed from the rough and tumble of politics.
She gets a monthly pension of Rs 14,000, lives mostly with a brother and spends much of her time in prayer. In Ahmedabad to visit her extended family, she agreed to be interviewed by The Indian Express but refused to be photographed. Excerpts from her first interview since Modi was named PM candidate:
For how long were you married and what is the status of the marriage?
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. Initially he took interest in talking to me and even in the affairs of the kitchen.
Do you feel burdened by the relationship, especially when the media asks you about your strained relationship? Are you instructed to remain low profile?
We have never been in touch and we parted on good terms as there were never any fights between us. I will not make up things that are not true. In three years, we may have been together for all of three months. There has been no communication from his end to this day.
Do you track the news about Narendra Modi?
Yes, I read everything that I can get my hands on. I read all the newspaper articles and also watch news on the television and like to read about him.
If he becomes the next Prime Minister and moves to Delhi, would you like to go back to him, if he calls you back? Will you try and meet him?
I have never gone to meet him and we have never been in touch. I don’t think he will ever call me. In whatever I say, I do not want it to harm him. I just wish that he progresses in whatever he does. I know he will become PM one day!
Did he ever tell you he was leaving you or quitting the marriage?
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. He never spoke to me about the continued…