NEW DELHI- The body of the wife of an Indian minister, found dead in a luxury hotel days after accusing her husband on Twitter of being unfaithful, was moved to a hospital Saturday for an autopsy.
The body was discovered by human resources minister Shashi Tharoor after he returned from a Congress party meeting late Friday, his private secretary Abhinav Kumar said.
The death of Sunanda Pushkar, 52, came as a tragic twist in a tale of apparent marital strife that embroiled a Pakistani journalist and played out on Twitter in the full public glare.
“She seemed to be sleeping in a normal way but later it was found she was dead,” Kumar told reporters late Friday.
Tharoor was admitted Saturday to the All India Institute of Medical Science, where his wife’s body was being held, after suffering “a minor cardiac event”, initial media reports said.
Indian newspapers splashed the death on their front pages. “Soon after Twitter war, Sunanda Pushkar found dead in Delhi hotel,” said the tabloid Mail Today in a headline.
The drama began late Wednesday when a curious series of messages appeared on the Twitter account of the suave thrice-married Tharoor, a former high-flying UN diplomat, novelist and key government spokesman.
They showed private exchanges purportedly between the 57-year-old minister (@shashitharoor) and Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar (@mehrtarar), in which she professed her love for him and he said his wife had discovered their relationship.
Tharoor, who has two million followers on Twitter, quickly responded by saying his 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 in comments published 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”.
Kumar said there was “no sign of foul play” but police have opened a case and an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.
Cricket-loving Tharoor and his wife, the mother of an adult son from a former marriage, had been staying at the hotel since Thursday as work was being done to their New Delhi home, Kumar said.
“The cause of death and the time of death, we cannot say now,” he added.
Pushkar, who had been suffering from tuberculosis, went on television Thursday, appearing confused and apparently unaware she was talking live.
An anchor on the CNN-IBN channel, Sagarika Ghose, said Friday she had spoken privately to her earlier in the day and she appeared depressed and was sobbing uncontrollably.
The Pakistani journalist whom Pushkar accused of “stalking” her husband strongly denied having a relationship with the former UN diplomat.
Reacting to Pushkar’s death, Tarar tweeted: “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 by Ban Ki-moon.
The famed author quit the UN after this defeat and entered Indian politics in 2008 as a ruling party MP in southern Kerala state.
Tharoor, a father of two adult sons, 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 IPL cricket team. Both denied wrongdoing.
Tharoor’s son, Ishaan, a journalist at Time magazine, requested on Twitter “that everyone please respect our family’s privacy at this moment”.