There was no let-up in the heated exchanges between the Congress and the BJP, with the former continuing to criticise Narendra Modi for not disclosing earlier the details of his marriage to Jashodaben and the latter claiming that he chose to protect the privacy and honour of the woman.
On Saturday, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the party’s prime ministerial candidate never hid the fact that he was married. “Mr. Modi has never misled anyone; he has mentioned his wife [in the affidavit filed along with his nomination] because the new law demands so. Since the marriage was not null and void, even though they are not cohabiting, as per the law Mr. Modi had to mention her. Earlier, he did not name her out of respect for her and to protect her privacy.”
Going on the offensive, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley raised questions about the alleged “illicit” relationship of Congress leaders.
In his blog, he wrote: “Indian politics has an unstated code of conduct. Ordinarily, we don’t drag families and ladies into controversy. Rahul Gandhi [Congress vice-president] is guilty of breaching that code.”
Claiming that “the disturbed matrimonial relationship” of a former Indian Prime Minister was never a political issue, Mr. Jaitley went on to say: “How many current senior Congressmen are in illicit relationships and yet have paraded their wives only for photo opportunities during nominations. Surely if people have a right to know about the ‘legal’ relationship of Mr. Modi, they also have a right to know about the illicit relationships of Congressmen. The latter is more relevant for people’s right to know about the ethics of their candidates.”
Accusing Mr. Gandhi of deflecting attention from serious political issues, Mr. Jaitely said he showed “his immaturity and desperation by making the ‘Modi marriage’ as a political issue.”
Even as Mr. Gandhi denied making “personal attacks” against Mr. Modi by referring to the omission of his wife’s name in his previous poll affidavits, the BJP prime ministerial candidate made a scathing attack on the Congress vice-president. “Shahzada [prince] came to Rajasthan without informing their CM & rode on a bike belonging to a history sheeter. Perhaps he was inspired by Dhoom 3,” Mr. Modi tweeted.
Mr. Modi was referring to the controversy that erupted in 2011, when Mr. Gandhi was accused of riding pillion with Congress worker Asif, a history-sheeter in Rajasthan, during his visit to Bharatpur in the wake of riots there.