A day after Narendra Modi publicly stated he is married, inviting derisive remarks from the Congress, his brother Somabhai tried to contain the attack by saying the marriage should be seen as a "social formality".
Having long avoided questions on his personal life, Modi
acknowledged his marriage to Jashodaben for the first time in his affidavit filed along with his nomination papers in Vadodara Lok Sabha constituency on Wednesday.
In the state assembly polls, he had been consistently leaving blank the column about spouse.
Congress has repeatedly called for Modi to disclose his marital status, following local reports in recent years that he had an arranged marriage at the age of 17 to a woman whom he soon deserted but never officially divorced. Critics say the episode exposes his poor attitude towards women.
"Modi accepts his marital status. Can women of this country trust a man who ... deprives his wife of her right?" Congress' general secretary Digvijaya Singh Tweeted on Thursday.
Modi wrote "not known" in the affidavit as to further information on his wife, such as the details of her income and assets.
Jashoda Chiman Modi, now a retired schoolteacher, lives frugally on a monthly pension of Rs. 14,000, according to an interview she gave to the Indian Express newspaper in February.
She said Modi left her after three years, during which they spent some three months together, and they parted amicably.
Modi has based his election campaign on vows to rescue India from its slowest economic growth in a decade and create jobs for its booming young population.
He has also told voters that he is not corruptible partly because he has no close family to enrich.
"Narendra was married to Jashodaben at a very young age by our parents, but it was only a formal ritual as Narendra left the house in those days itself," Modi's older brother Somabhai said.
Somabhai said that Modi, after leaving the house, has not kept any contact with the family, as "service to the nation was his only religion".
"His marriage was just a formality as he left the house soon after his marriage. Even Jashodaben has been living at her father's home and spending her life working in the education sector," Somabhai said.
"The incident (Modi's marriage) which had occurred 45-50 years ago is to be seen in the background of a poor and traditionally orthodox family," he said.
Somabhai said that Modi's current status should not be evaluated on the basis of "an incident" that had occurred 45 to 50 years ago.
Praising his younger brother, he said, "Narendrabhai was different amongst the six siblings. His interest in the service to the nation was quite apparent to us.
"But nobody could have estimated the intensity of his idea of service to the nation. He was also very influenced with the sacrifice and dedication of Swami Vivekananda and Lord Gautam Buddha."
Somabhai said his younger brother had left the house and the family because he believed in the concept of "world is a family".
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