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Indian minister Tharoor's wife found dead

Sunanda Pushkar found dead in New Delhi hotel room, days after she exposed her husband's alleged adultery on Twitter.

Last updated: 18 Jan 2014 07:15
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Tharoor and Pushkar married in August 2010 [Reuters]

The wife of a prominent Indian politician has been found dead in a five-star hotel room in New Delhi after she used Twitter to expose his alleged adultery with a Pakistani journalist.

Sunanda Pushkar's body was discovered by Shashi Tharoor, the federal human resources minister, after he returned to the Leela Palace hotel from a meeting on Friday, said Abhinav Kumar, Tharoor's private secretary.

"She seemed to be sleeping in a normal way but later it was found she was dead," Kumar said, referring to Pushkar, a 52-year-old entrepreneur formerly based in Dubai.

Kumar said there was "no sign of foul play" but police have opened a case and a post-mortem examination will be performed to determine the cause of death.

"The cause of death and the time of death, we cannot say now," he said.

Tharoor, 57, was later reported to have been taken to hospital suffering chest pains, but was in a stable condition.

Intimate messages

Her death came after a series of messages appeared on the Twitter account of Tharoor, a former UN diplomat, novelist and government spokesman.

The messages showed intimate exchanges purportedly between Tharoor (@shashitharoor) and Mehr Tarar (@mehrtarar), the Pakistani journalist, in which she professed her love for him and he said his wife had discovered their relationship.

Tharoor quickly responded by saying his Twitter account had been "hacked", but Pushkar spoke to two newspapers saying that she was the author of the messages.

"Our accounts have not been hacked and I have been sending out these tweets," Pushkar told the Economic Times daily in comments published on Thursday.

She also raked up a corruption scandal related to the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament that almost wrecked Tharoor's career in 2010 and led him to resign from the cabinet.

Seeking to draw a line under the scandal, Tharoor issued a joint statement on Thursday in which he blamed unauthorised tweets and distorted media reports for the "unseemly controversy".

The statement said the couple, who wed in August 2010, were "happily married and intend to remain that way".

Tarar 'shocked'

Tarar, whom Pushkar accused of "stalking" her husband, strongly denied having a relationship with Tharoor.

Reacting to Pushkar's death on Friday, Tarar said on Twitter: "I just woke up and read this. I'm absolutely shocked. This is too awful for words. So tragic I don't know what to say. Rest in peace, Sunanda."

Tharoor is a former diplomat who spent three decades in the UN and was beaten to the post of secretary-general of the organisation by incumbent Ban Ki-moon.

The author and public speaker quit the UN after this defeat and entered Indian politics in 2008 as a ruling party MP from a safe seat in southern Kerala state.

Tharoor had to resign from his first ministerial post in 2010 after revelations that then-girlfriend Pushkar had been given a free stake in a new Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket team.

Opposition parties said the stake, reportedly worth up to $15m, was for Tharoor's behind-the-scenes services in putting together a consortium that bought a franchise in his home state of Kerala.

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