From snooping to suiting: the controversies around Modi

Be it questions over his marital status or educational qualifications, PM Narendra Modi has had his share of controversies over his personal life.

May 05, 2016 06:03 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 04:56 am IST

B:LINE: Gujarat Chief Minister, Narender Modi. 
Photo:Ramesh Sharma

B:LINE: Gujarat Chief Minister, Narender Modi. Photo:Ramesh Sharma

Be it questions over his marital status or educational qualifications, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had his share of controversies over his personal life. We take a look at the controversies that have stemmed from his personal life over the years.

1. Snoopgate controversy

In 2013 when the BJP announced Narendra Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate, a scandal broke that the Gujarat government had allegedly ‘spied’ on a young woman architect in the state in 2009.

Political parties raised a storm over the identity of the woman and her alleged links with Mr. Modi, and questioned BJP over the surveillance. With the UPA Cabinet granting approval for the setting up of an inquiry commission to probe the scandal, the case was reduced to another slinging match between the Congress and the BJP in the run-up to the 2014 general election. Modi is said to have taken personal interest in placing the woman under surveillance for no legally justifiable reason. What would have revolved around charges of violation of privacy and the misuse of official machinery, became a full-blown political controversy covering a range of issues from Centre-State relations to moral policing.

2. The education conundrum

The Prime Minister’s education has been a point of contention for many. The most recent one to pick a bone is Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

He has written to the Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University asking for Modi’s UG records to be made public. Earlier, Mr. Kejriwal alleged that the PM’s degree was forged. Amid the row over his educational qualification, the Gujarat University had recently shared details of his MA degree saying he scored 62.3 per cent as an external student of the varsity. “Narendra Damodardas Modi passed his M.A. in Political Science in 1983 with first class, securing 499 out of 800 marks, which comes to 62.3 per cent, as an external student,” Gujarat University’s Vice-Chancellor M.N. Patel said.

3. Questions over marital status

Allaying rumours over his marital status, Modi, in 2014, broke his of silence and admitted that he was married to a woman named Jashodaben. The couple is separated now. Mr. Modi used to leave the “spouse” column in poll affidavits blank. He had left the column blank in the 2012 Assembly elections as well. However, for the 2014 Lok Sabha election affidavit, in the column where he has to declare assets in the name of his wife, Modi had written that he had no information on it.

Adding fuel to fire, Jashodaben recently filed an RTI application seeking details about the marriage-related documents Modi had submitted to get his passport when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat. The plea was made after her application for passport was rejected last November on the ground she did not produce a marriage certificate or a joint affidavit to prove that she is married to Modi.

4. Chaai wallah jibe

Remember senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Iyer’s jibe, “Narendra Modi will never become the Prime Minister of the country. ...But if he wants to distribute tea here, we will find a place for him.”? The chaiwallah debate raged during the BJP’s general election campaign when Modi stated at campaign rallies that he used to serve tea while he was young. Soon, what started off as a controversy became a strong point for the BJP, ultimately becoming the chai-pe-charcha campaign before and after Modi took over as Prime Minister. The campaign saw Mr. Modi interacting and mingling with citizens across the country over a cup of tea.

5. Grooming and attire

When Modi’s monogrammed bandhgala suit was sold for Rs 4.31 crore at an auction, it kicked up a political storm. The pin-striped navy blue suit that Modi wore for his Summit meeting with US President Barack Obama on January 25, 2015 went to Surat-based diamond trader Lalji Patel and his son after intense bidding in the dying moments of the auction. His fashion sense also came under the limelight with The New York Times stating that “even by the standards of a world that has seen blogs devoted to Michelle Obama’s dress sense, the image-craft of India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi — and its fashion fallout — has been something of a case study.”

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