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Indian PM aspirant's marital status spurs question

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NEW DELHI (AP) — India's governing Congress party on Friday asked election authorities to prosecute the Hindu nationalist opposition's prime ministerial candidate for filing "false affidavits" by not mentioning his marriage when he registered for past elections.

Law Minister Kapil Sibal said the autonomous Election Commission promised to examine the party's petition.

Narendra Modi, the top elected official of western Gujarat state, registered with the commission earlier this week to contest a seat in India's Parliament from Vadodra city in Gujarat state. The filing was his first official acknowledgment of his marriage to a retired school teacher.

The marriage was arranged when they were young and the couple has lived separately for almost four decades, Modi's brother said.

In four registrations between 2002 and 2012 for state legislature elections, Modi left the question of his marital status blank, Sibal said.

"Modi must have realized that now he can no longer withhold that fact from the people of India," Sibal said.

The 63-year-old Modi is leading his Bharatiya Janata Party's bid to wrest power from the Congress party in the national elections that are being decided in multiphase voting through May 12. Results will be announced on May 16.

Modi left his home in Gujarat soon after the wedding as he became a preacher for a Hindu nationalist organization, his elder brother, Somanbhai Modi, said in a statement on Thursday. They've lived apart for all these years but haven't formally divorced, he said.

Jashodaben Modi stayed at her father's home and pursued a career in academics, Somanbhai Modi said.

"Some 40-45 years ago, our family led a poverty-stricken life. We belong to a family which was then bound by orthodoxy and plagued by social, educational and financial backwardness," he said.

"It was this perspective which saw our parents get Narendra Modi married at a rather young age," he said.

Nirmala Samant, a member of the National Commission for Women, said it should be investigated as to why the Election Commission did not compel Modi to disclose his marital status in regional elections.

It was very unfortunate that Modi's wife was deprived of her right to property, maintenance and other privileges, the Times of India newspaper quoted Samant as saying.

As journalists reached Patan, a small town in Gujarat state, on Thursday looking for Modi's wife, her brother Kamlesh Modi said his sister left for a pilgrimage.

"Her prayers have been answered as Narendra Modi has publicly accepted her as his wife. We are very happy. We all pray for him to become the prime minister," Kamlesh Modi told reporters.

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