For the longest time Jashodaben was a name that was almost synonymous with conjecture in India.
The reality of Jashodaben’s life was constructed through a series of assumptions combined with a few controversy-proof quotes that shed no light on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s estranged wife. Therefore, her filing an RTI to seek details about her security cover has grabbed headlines.
When Modi finally dispelled doubts about her marital status when he named her as his wife in the election nomination papers, Jashodaben, perhaps wary of the media glare said that she was ‘happy’ to have been duly recognised.
A widely-circulated article on the Open magazine had noted way back in 2009 how Jashodaben, who literally had no contact with Modi, then Gujarat’s CM, was constantly under strict surveillance. It suggested that she was under constant watch and was terrified of speaking to the media lest she had to face the ‘consequences’. A paragraph in the article noted how the mere visit of the journalist, sparked off an alarming series of events.
“Later, some men visited the school, one after the other, in different vehicles. They parked their vehicles within the school premises, and looked directly into the principal’s office. After a while, they left. When the school day came to an end, Jashodaben almost ran out to a waiting autorickshaw. She pointed at me and told some villagers that I was harassing her.”
If that was indeed the truth of her life, Jashodaben has come a long way in five years. Her demand to know what security arrangements she is entitled to hints at a woman who wants to take back control of her life. Here’s a list of her demands, as made evident in her RTI and the reasons she seems upset with the SPG protection provided to her.
1. According to Mumbai Mirror, PM Modi’s wife wanted her guards to show her the officials orders, which identify them as her designated security personnel. The RTI was filed with the superintendent at the Mehsana police station. However, they refused to show the said documents to her. As reported by IE, the RTI application states: “India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was attacked and killed by her personal bodyguards, because of which we are very afraid of our bodyguards. So we want the complete information on the guards protecting us, and if they have a copy of the order under which they are deployed here. If they don’t have it, then on whose orders they don’t have it. We need a certified copy of that order with all these details.”
2. Stating that she was ready to live in Delhi, Jashodaben also expressed her disapproval about the fact that her guards tailed her everywhere in government vehicles while she had to take public transport. The Times of India notes, “At present, the 62-year-old retired teacher has six special protection guards (SPG) who have been provided with a vehicle so that they can follow her wherever she goes. But Jashodaben herself has no car of her own and neither does her brother Ashok Modi, with whom she lives.” Ashok Modi told The Indian Express, ““How would it feel for a PM’s wife to move about on an Activa (two wheeler)? After all she is the first lady, so why not give her adequate transport facilities?”
3. Jashodaben lives with her brother in Brahmanwada village in Unjha. She also alleged that the guards wanted her family to treat them as guests, thereby hinting that they have become a liability to her. Her brother added that they were tired of this VVIP protection since his sister doesn’t enjoy the same social status.