Last week, Shashi Tharoor’s more than two million Twitter followers received a series of shocking tweets. The junior government minister’s wife, Sunanda Pushkar, had hijacked the account – posting evidence of her husband’s alleged affair for the entire world to see.
“I love you, Shashi Tharoor. And I go while in love with you, irrevocably, irreversibly, hamesha (always). Bleeding, but always your Mehr,” read one of the tweets, which appeared to have been a direct message from Mehr Tarar, a Pakistani journalist.
Shortly after the flurry of incriminating posts and public threats of divorce, Pushkar was found dead at the Hotel Leela Palace in New Delhi, the victim of a drug overdose.
Local police are now investigating whether the overdose was deliberate or accidental – or if foul play may have been involved.
“The post-mortem report reveals that she died due to [drug] poison. But it will be too early to say before her viscera report if she had consumed poison, or the drug consumed by her acted as poison,” Magistrate Alok Sharma told BBC.
He added that the autopsy revealed “injury marks” on Pushkar’s body, but would not speculate on their correlation with the ongoing investigation.
Tharoor, who serves as India’s Minister of State for Human Resource Development, earned the nickname “Minister Twitter” due to his frequent use of social media as a tool to reach constituents. A former diplomat, Tharoor was once a candidate for United Nations secretary-general.
Tharoor has denied the affair, calling subsequent media reports “reckless speculation.”
“Nothing short of truth will end the indignity to which my wife and I are being subjected,” he wrote in an open letter to India’s home affair’s minister.
“A woman I never met attacked me on Twitter, a fight began, and then she died. I’m shattered,” Mehr told Zee News. “I would rather have her abuse me for the next ten years than to see her harm herself.”
Mehr added that a flattering profile she wrote about Tharoor – pointing out his “deep and sensuous voice,” “disarming smile,” and resemblance to Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan – could have roused Pushkar’s suspicions.
The Indian National Congress has insisted that Tharoor maintain his government post despite lingering questions over the cause of his wife’s death, calling the junior minister “an inseparable part of Congress.”
“Neither any individual, any party or organization are insinuating vis-a-vis the alleged suicide or the alleged murder of [Pushkar],” said Congress Party spokesman Randip Surjewala. “When there is no charge and nobody is alleging any role of Tharoor, why should he resign?”
Pushkar’s son from a previous marriage, Shiv Menon, has also come to Tharoor’s defense.
“Anyone who knew my mother would simply know that she was too strong to commit suicide. I also do not believe that Shashi was capable of physically harming her, let alone the speculation that he could have taken her life,” Menon told NDTV, saying that her death was caused by an “unfortunate combination of media stress, tensions and the wrong mix of different medications.”
Tharoor and Pushkar married in 2010 – the third marriage for both. It was also the same year that Tharoor was forced to step down from his first ministerial position, following a national scandal that involved then-girlfriend Pushkar, cricket, and – you guessed it – Twitter.