‘Bachelor’ Narendra Modi finally owns up to having a wife
Presidential favourite who brags about leading ascetic life lists spouse's name on poll form
Agence France-Presse in Ahmedabad
Narendra Modi has finally acknowledged he is married, solving one of the biggest mysteries about the private life of the man tipped to be the next Indian prime minister.
Modi, 63, is routinely described as a bachelor and is thought to have lived alone in his adult life, having come through the ranks of a grass-roots Hindu nationalist organisation in which celibacy is expected.
Media reports have described how he walked away from a marriage arranged by his parents when he was a child, but Modi has never confirmed this. He has portrayed his single status as a virtue while campaigning.
In an affidavit on Wednesday as he filed his papers to stand as a member of parliament from the Vadadora constituency in Gujarat state, he acknowledged he had a wife. In the column of the affidavit to mention spouses, the chief minister of Gujarat wrote "Jashodaben", but he states elsewhere in the filing that he had "no information" about her.
Reports have consistently stated he was betrothed to a now-retired school teacher called Jashodaben, who said in February she did not "feel bad" about not being part of Modi's life. The relationship is believed to have never been consummated.
Modi, a hardline Hindu nationalist consistently ahead in the polls, told a biographer recently that he "actually enjoys loneliness" and has said because he has no children he is more likely to be a clean politician.
"I've no familial ties. Who would I ever try to benefit through corruption?" he asked a recent rally.
Modi has contested seats in Gujarat's regional assembly four times but has never stated his marital status on the affidavits.
India's national election, which entered the third of nine phases yesterday with a fifth of the 543 seats in the parliament up for grabs, has been described as a "battle of the bachelors".
Modi's main opponent, Rahul Gandhi, from the ruling Congress party, which has been in power nationally since 2004, is single.
Unlike in many other democracies, being unmarried is not seen as a handicap because Hinduism has a strong tradition of asceticism in which followers renounce worldly pleasures.
Other parts of Modi's personal story remain unclear, particularly a period as a young man when he is believed to have wandered in the Himalayas on a journey of spiritual discovery.