Global Post: AHMEDABAD, India — For any world-class politician, an articulate, telegenic or otherwise appealing spouse is an obvious asset. Think Carla Bruni, Peng Liyuan or even Hillary Clinton.
But the man who many believe will become India’s prime minister after the May 2014 elections has an unusual relationship with his wife.
They are still married, but decades of silence separate them. They have not spoken in 45 years, her family told GlobalPost.
That’s not to say Jashodaben Modi would describe herself as estranged from her husband, Narendra Modi.
On the contrary, she is highly devoted to the energetic, charismatic politician from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Mrs. Modi rises at 5 a.m. daily and heads to her village temple to pray that her husband and his party win next year’s parliamentary vote.
The 63-year-old retired schoolteacher even attends her husband’s rallies — incognito, in case his political allies or opponents recognize her.
“She goes to his speeches to see him, but she never tells anyone. She doesn’t tell anyone who she is,” her niece, Nirali Modi, a 25-year-old teacher, told GlobalPost. “He doesn’t know. They have not spoken since he left.”
Mrs. Modi’s relatives say her husband left the family at 18 years of age, to further his political career in a Hindu nationalist organization that forbids its key workers to marry.
Modi would have lost his position had he revealed the marriage. He may never have risen to chief minister of Gujarat — a business hub with a population similar in size to France’s. And he may never have become the man the BJP hopes will beat Congress candidate Rahul Gandhi to end a decade of opposition.
A controversial candidate
Even without his rarely talked about secret wife, Mr. Modi is a deeply controversial politician.
Although his followers virtually worship him — one said he adored Modi “like God” — many opponents despise him for his role in anti-Muslim riots in 2002 when more than 1,000 people died.