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Minister's wife dies after Twitter row

Last updated 10:17 19/01/2014
india twitter death

WEDDING DAY: Sunanda Puskhar and her husband Shashi Tharoor share a moment during their wedding ceremony in 2010.

india twitter death
SUDDEN DEATH: Shashi and Sunanda Puskhar Tharoor at the Indian F1 Grand Prix last year.

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The death of an Indian government minister's wife is being  described as "sudden" and "unnatural" following an autopsy, a day after she was found dead in a New Delhi hotel room having earlier accused her husband of adultery.

Police have launched an inquest into the death of junior human resource development minister Shashi Tharoor's wife.

Earlier in the week the wife, Sunanda Pushkar, had gone public on Twitter saying she wanted to expose a "rip-roaring affair" between her husband and a Pakistan-based journalist.

"It was sudden, unnatural death. There were certain injuries on the body," Sudhir Gupta, the head of the forensic sciences department at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said after an autopsy was conducted on the body.

He told reporters it would take a couple of days to determine the precise cause of death.

The scandal could hardly come at a worse time for India's ruling Congress party, as it prepares for an election due by May.

On Friday, the party announced 41-year-old Rahul Gandhi would lead the Congress election campaign, in the hope that charisma of a family that has supplied three prime ministers would keep voters loyal.

Gandhi will struggle to restore his party's reputation, damaged by allegations of corruption, while the main opposition Hindu nationalist party appears resurgent after its own change of leadership.

Television images showed Sunanda's young son from a previous marriage hugging close relatives outside the morgue where her body lay.

Tharoor himself complained of chest pains early on Saturday hours after he found his wife dead in her bed. He was taken to hospital where doctors said his condition was stable. He later left the hospital, his face drawn.

Sunanda, his wife of four years, had been embroiled this week in a spat with the Pakistan-based journalist, Mehr Tarar, whom she accused, in a series of Twitter posts, of pursuing her husband.

Sunanda, 52, said she had gone into her husband's Twitter account and put out private messages that she said Tarar had sent to her husband over Blackberry Messenger to expose their affair.

Tarar denied any involvement with the Indian minister. The scandal was splashed on the front pages of newspapers and went viral on social media.

Tharoor is a former UN diplomat and a prolific author whose Twitter handle showed more than 2 million followers. One of the most active users of the microblogging site in government, he made no comment at the time his wife went public with the allegations.

On Thursday, the couple issued a statement saying they were distressed by the controversy caused by unauthorised use of their Twitter accounts.

Tharoor, 57, married Sunanda in 2010, in a third marriage for both.

Earlier that year he had been forced to resign from his first ministerial job after accusations linking him to a company bidding for a cricket team in the lucrative Indian Premier League from his home state of Kerala.

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Sunanda had a stake in the company at the time.

Tharoor's aides said the couple had checked into the luxury hotel this week because of renovation work at his Delhi bungalow.

On Friday, he left the hotel room to attend a session of the Congress party in the capital but returned late in the day to find the door locked. His wife's body was found after the door was forced open.

The Pakistani journalist Tarar said she was shocked by the death. "Oh my God...," she wrote in a Twitter post. "This is too awful for words. So tragic I don't know what to say. Rest in peace."

Tharoor has stirred controversy in the past by posting a message that he would travel "cattle class" following reports about his lavish lifestyle.

- Reuters

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