NEW DELHI (AFP) - The woman who calls herself the wife of fiery hardline Indian prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi said in a rare interview Saturday that she doesn't "feel bad" he has cut her out of his life.
Mr Modi, a 63-year-old opposition Hindu nationalist politician, has never commented on numerous reports that he wed Jashodaben, 62, in a traditional arranged marriage when she was 17.
The retired school teacher spoke to an Indian newspaper amid intense speculation about Mr Modi's personal life as he leaders the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into general elections due by May.
Jashodaben, who goes by one name, told The Indian Express daily that she remains a big fan of Mr Modi, even though she says they split three years into their marriage and since he left "we have never been in touch".
"I know he will become PM (prime minister) one day," she said.
Jashodaben said she didn't "feel bad" Mr Modi has never acknowledged her as his wife, adding: "I know he is doing so due to destiny and bad times." "In such situations, he has to say such things and also has to lie," she said.
Mr Modi kept the wedding secret because it meant he would not be able to climb the ladder of the puritan Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), a hardline Hindu group that frowns on key workers marrying, according to a recent Modi biography by Indian author Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay.
The author also claimed the couple's marriage was unconsummated.
In 2009, a magazine tracked Jashodaben to the school where she taught but she refused to give an interview, saying she was afraid of her "powerful" husband.
Mr Modi, chief minister of Gujarat state, is favoured by corporate leaders for his business-friendly politics.
But he remains a polarising figure, accused by critics of turning a blind eye to anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 in which as many as 2,000 died. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Opinion surveys predict the BJP will get the most seats in the elections.
Jashodaben gets a monthly government teacher's pension of 14,000 rupees (S$300) and leads a reclusive life with a brother in a village in western Gujarat.
She said the couple "parted on good terms... there were never any fights," adding: "In three years, we may have been together for all of three months." She said she reads "everything (about him) I can get my hands on." But, she added: "I don't think he will ever call me."