Narendra Modi’s Estranged Wife Escapes Unhurt From Car Crash in India

Jashodaben Chimanlal in 2014. A retired teacher, she was married to Mr. Modi about 50 years ago, but the relationship was kept quiet for decades. Credit Sam Panthaky/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

NEW DELHI — The long-estranged wife of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India returned to the public eye on Wednesday when a car she was riding in collided with a truck.

Mr. Modi’s wife, Jashodaben Chimanlal, a retired teacher, was unhurt, but one of her relatives was killed, said Rakesh Rajora, a police official in the northern state of Rajasthan, where the crash occurred.

“Madam Jashodaben is fine and did not suffer any injury,” Mr. Rajora said, adding that she had been taken to a hospital as a precaution.

For most of his political career, Mr. Modi did not publicly acknowledge that he was married. He left his marital status blank on several election registration forms when he was chief minister of the state of Gujarat. But under increased scrutiny as a candidate for prime minister in 2014, Mr. Modi revised his official biography to note the relationship.

The marriage, which was arranged, occurred about 50 years ago in a small town in Gujarat when Mr. Modi and Ms. Chimanlal were teenagers, according to The Indian Express. A biography of Mr. Modi distributed to journalists by his political party, Bharatiya Janata, said that the two had never lived together and that the marriage had never been consummated.

Mr. Modi is said to have left Ms. Chimanlal soon after their marriage to wander in the Himalayas, where he considered becoming a monk.

In past elections, Mr. Modi played up his apparent bachelor status, arguing that he could not be corrupt because he had no family to support. Vows of celibacy and renunciation of family life have a long history in Indian public life, and relate to teachings in Hinduism that champion self-control.

Mr. Rajora, the police official, said that Ms. Chimanlal had been riding in a car with five other people Wednesday morning when it collided with a truck in the district of Chittorgarh. The Indian Express reported that the group had been returning from a wedding, and that a cousin of Ms. Chimanlal had died. The newspaper quoted the police as saying that the driver of the truck appeared to have been reckless.

Inder Jeet Singh, the chief medical officer in Chittorgarh, said a female passenger had been injured.

There was no immediate comment from Mr. Modi.

Car crashes are common in India, where roads are often congested or poorly lit and traffic rules are loosely enforced. A 2015 report from the World Health Organization found that the road traffic death rate in India was 16.6 per 100,000 people, compared with 10.6 in the United States.


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