India's Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist favored to become the country's next prime minister, has kept his personal life private but acknowledged for the first time this week that he is married to a retired school teacher.
Modi was forced to admit the marriage, which happened in his teens but was never annulled, in election documents he had fill out to be eligible for the office, the Indian Express reported
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Modi had long kept the public at arm's length from his private life.
Modi declared Jashodaben Narendrabhai Modi as his wife in his affidavit Wednesday. The Express noted that in four previous assembly elections, Modi had left the spouse column blank.
Narendrabhai Modi, 62, is a retired teacher and currently lives near Vadnagar, the Express said. She told the newspaper that she married Modi at 17 and they lived together for three months before they separated amicably. She acknowledged to the Express that the marriage was never formally annulled.
Polls suggest that Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to win "the biggest chunk" of the seats in Parliament but will likely fall short of a majority during the country's five-week election that started on Monday, the Express said.
India's ruling Congress party hopes to use the revelation as a campaign issue to show he has a negative attitude toward 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, according to Reuters.
The Congress party had repeatedly hounded Modi about his marital status following local reports in recent years that he had an arranged marriage as a teenager and deserted his wife, according to Reuters.
Modi has campaigned on turning the Indian economy around for its young population, adding that he was not corruptible because he has no close family to enrich.
Som Modi, Narendra Modi's brother, said in a statement to Reuters that his marriage was a formality only done by their parents when his brother was young.
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