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Secret service to end rural anonymity for Narendra Modi's wife

May 27 2014, 09:20 IST
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SummaryIndia is preparing to give top-level security to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's wife deep in a Gujarat village.

India is preparing to give top-level security to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's wife deep in a village in Gujarat, a move that threatens to upend the quiet life she has lived since the couple separated as teenagers about 45 years ago.

Jashodaben Modi, 62, a retired primary school teacher, has been thrown into the national spotlight since Modi, after years of silence, disclosed his marriage in an election filing last month.

She has gone on pilgrimages in the Himalayas twice in recent weeks to avoid reporters swarming to her windowless rooms in the cramped house she shares with her brother's family in Gujarat state's Brahmanvada village.

Modi, 63, was sworn in as 15th prime minister of the world's biggest democracy on Monday, and the Special Protection Group (SPG) - an elite force modelled on the Secret Service that guards U.S. presidents - will now take over his security.

Under law, the SPG is responsible for the security of the prime minister and his immediate family members.

"The SPG has made general inquiries regarding Jashodaben. The lead agency will be the state police and the SPG will have to depend on them," a source in the Gujarat police told Reuters. 

Another security official in New Delhi said Jashodaben and Modi's 95-year-old mother were entitled to top-level cover and that neither could refuse, although the protection could vary according to the perception of threat.

Modi is one of India's most guarded politicians. Earlier this year there were warnings that members of the Indian Mujahideen were plotting to target him at an election rally.

A LIFE IN THE SHADOWS

Jashodaben's family said they were not aware of any plans to mount security for her. "She lives a life immersed in prayers, she doesn't need any of this," said her brother, Ashok Modi, who runs a small provision shop from the front portion of his house.

"What she would like is to get back to her husband as every woman in our society wants. But that won't happen," he said. Modi is a common name in Gujarat.

Another brother, Kamlesh, who lives a few houses away and sells onions to supplement his income, said their village of 2,500 was pleased Modi had finally owned up to the marriage.

"There is hope here that something good will come to this village, now that he is prime minister," Kamlesh said, sitting in a sweltering mud-walled house.

Prime Minister Modi has never spoken about his wife, but friends and

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