|Amrita and Digvijaya
April 30: Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh today revealed that he was in a “relationship” with a television anchor years younger than him and intended to “formalise” it after her divorce came through.
The 67-year-old widower, whose wife lost a long battle with cancer early last year, said he had “no hesitation in accepting” the relationship with Amrita Rai, 43, but “condemn(ed)” the “encroachment” on their “private life”.
The disclosure that love had touched the heart of a battle-scarred political veteran came in the middle of a particularly acrimonious election, stained by personal attacks, hate speeches and unseemly threats.
“I have no hesitation in accepting my relationship with Amrita Rai. She and her husband have already filed a mutual consent divorce case,” Digvijaya said in a tweet, reacting to a report in a newspaper today.
“Once that is decided we would formalise it,” the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister said in another post. “But I do condemn encroachment in our private life.”
Rai, a news anchor with Rajya Sabha TV, confirmed the relationship. “I have separated from my husband and we have filed a mutual consent divorce papers. After which I have decided to marry with Digvijaya Singh,” she tweeted but alleged that her computer had been hacked.
“My email/computer (have) been hacked & (the) contents tampered with,” she said in a tweet.
By early afternoon, social media had gone viral with intimate photographs and videos of Digvijaya, which probably prompted the second post from the senior Congress leader. Whether the photographs were authentic or had been morphed could not be verified but Amrita’s claim that her computer had been hacked indicated that some of these photographs, which appeared to be selfies, were genuine.
Digvijaya did not deny the veracity of these photographs or videos. He merely condemned the encroachment on their “private life”.
Sources close to Amrita said Digvijaya’s family, including his son Jaivardhan who was elected to the Madhya Pradesh Assembly in November, had accepted their relationship.
“Digvijaya’s family understands his loneliness after the death of his wife,” a source told The Telegraph. “His daughters, son, sons-in-law respect his right to be in a relationship and be happy.”
Digvijaya’s wife, Asha, died at a hospital in New Delhi on February 27 last year after battling cancer for several years. She was 58.
Rubina Sharma, who is married to Digvijaya’s brother Laxman, chose her words with care. “I feel happy and welcome Amrita to our family. But I find (it) a bit ironical too. When Laxman wanted to marry me, there was stiff opposition from Digvijayaji on the ground that I was several years younger to Laxman. I wonder what he would have to say now.”
Laxman had met Rubina Sharma, 30 years younger than him, at Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, where she, like Laxman’s first wife Jagriti, was undergoing chemotherapy. They married in 2002 after Jagriti passed away.
Rubina also said she has had to endure taunts since her marriage. “Even Laxman’s daughter, 13 years younger to me from his first wife, was instigated against me. Now when Digvijayaji marries Amrita, his daughters will all be older than his new wife.”
Digvijaya has four daughters and a son by Asha.
It is not clear how and when Digvijaya met Amrita for the first time but, if sources are to be believed, she had gone to interview him and exchanged phone numbers.
Whispers that Digvijaya was having an “affair” have been doing the rounds for several months. A video, which reportedly started circulating last October from the Congress’s 24 Akbar Road headquarters in New Delhi, showed Digvijaya and Amrita performing puja together at a temple somewhere in Maharashtra. The buzz then was that Digvijaya had “secretly” married Amrita. But well-placed sources had trashed such talk and said Digvijaya’s in-house rivals circulated the video.
The old video and the new photographs of Digvijaya and Amrita began doing the rounds after Narendra Modi named wife Jashodaben for the first time in an election affidavit on April 10. So even as Digvijaya taunted the BJP mascot in a tweet — saying “Modi accepts his marital status” — his pictures with Amrita were all over social networking sites.
The next few days were tough for Amrita. Sources close to Digvijaya said he chose to go public today to make things easy for her.
While most tweets poked fun at him, some were appreciative. One from @lindsaypereira said: “Must give credit to #DigVijaySingh and Amrita Rai for admitting to a relationship. Others refuse to acknowledge their wives for decades.”
There was no immediate reaction from the Congress but some party leaders, speaking off the record, appreciated Digvijaya’s “moral courage” in coming out with the relationship.
In Madhya Pradesh, BJP leader Babulal Gaur said he “saluted” Digvijaya. “Digvijaya has been honest and listening to his heart,” said the octogenarian former chief minister, adding that he has always seen the Congress veteran as a friend despite their political divide.
Digvijaya, though, isn’t the only Indian politician to have listened to his heart, proving that age is no barrier to the marriage of true minds.
Inderjit Gupta, the late CPI leader, waited 40 years before he married Suraiya. As a young man, he couldn’t quite bring himself to propose to her. He married her when he was in his 60s.
R.K. Dhawan, the Gandhi family confidant, remained a bachelor till the age of 74, when he married Achla, 15 years his junior.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, 74, married Sadhna Yadav after his first wife Malti Devi died in May 2003. But not many knew about Mulayam’s second marriage for nearly five years.
Digvijaya, however, appears to have given a hint that many may have missed. On April 10, the same day Modi disclosed that he had a wife, Digvijaya had tweeted: “I am a widower and if I remarry i won't hide like your Dear Feku!”