Sunanda Pushkar, the 52-year-old industrialist wife of Union HRD minister Shashi Tharoor was found dead on Friday at a seven-star hotel where the couple had checked in together a day earlier, the police said.
News of her death emerged late in the evening, coming within two days of her Twitter spat with a Pakistani journalist, Mehr Tarar, over an alleged affair with the minister.
She did not leave a note behind, said a police official who did not want to be named.
Pushkar, who has business interests in Dubai and was the Congress minister’s third wife, was found dead in the bedroom of The Leela Palace suite number 345 around 8.15pm.
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There were no visible injury marks and nothing to suggest poisoning either, said Deepak Mishra, special commissioner of police (law and order).
Her body was found on the bed, with no signs of struggle, the police added.
Officials said Tharoor came back from a Congress meeting around 8.15pm and discovered his wife's death. He informed the police.
Tarar, a columnist with Pakistan’s Daily Times, reacted to news of Pushkar’s death in two consecutive tweets: “What the hell. Sunanda. Oh my God” and “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.”
Read: Hotel staff quizzed, CCTV footage, call details under scrutiny
Pushkar is understood to have left Tharoor’s official residence, 97 Lodhi Estate, on Wednesday and, around 16 hours ago had tweeted: “...got so many issues diagnosed in KIMS that now who knows when I got 2 go with joy Hastay hua jayegay (sic).”
This was followed by a post declaring that the couple was “happily married”.
The police said they were examining the case from all angles including possible drug overdose or even heart attack.
“Nothing is being ruled out,” said a police official, asking not to be named.
Mishra said Pushkar was found dead in her nightclothes on a bed in the suite and the reason for her death would only become clear after an autopsy, which has been scheduled for Saturday.
Read: Sunanda Pushkar's Twitter trail reveals hurt, sense of betrayal
Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said inquest proceedings would follow an investigation by the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) since the couple had been married for less than seven years, as per law.
“Mr Tharoor and his wife, who has been ill, had rented the suite on Thursday afternoon and had spent the night there,” said Abhinav Kumar, an IPS officer of Uttarakhand cadre and Tharoor’s personal secretary.
“He was at the AICC (All India Congress Committee) meeting during the day and returned only around 8.15 pm to find her lying in bed, dead.”
Read: Making up? After Twitter storm, Tharoors say they are still happily married
According to Kumar, he made a call to the Sarojini Nagar police station house officer (SHO) after receiving word from Tharoor, who, in the meantime, informed the hotel staff. The hotel’s resident physician confirmed she was dead.
Pushkar’s death follows a hail of tweets in an ugly spat she had with Tarar over the last 72-hours.
A senior Delhi Police official said Twitter would be asked for information about direct messages exchanged between Pushkar and other people on the microblogging website in the run-up to her death.
Ugly Twitter war
The war of words began on Wednesday when intimate tweets addressed to Tarar were sent out from the minister’s Twitter handle @ShashiTharoor, which has more than two million followers.
“I love you, Shashi Tharoor. And I go while in love with you, irrevocably, irreversibly, hamesha. Bleeding, but always your Mehr (sic),” read one such message.
This was followed by a tweet from Pushkar's handle, calling Lahore-based Tarar “a horrible woman stalking my husband”.
“I get sick and go away 4 treatment &the vultures pounce (sic),” read another tweet.
Tharoor tried to nip the ugly spat between the two women in the bud, saying his and Pushkar's Twitter accounts had been hacked.
But Pushkar denied his claim and told a newspaper she has been sending out those tweets. Calling Tarar an ISI agent, she said her husband was "flattered by the attention” he was getting from the Pakistani journalist.
Alluding to the controversy involving her husband during the 2010-Indian Premier League controversy, she also added, “I took upon myself the crimes of this man (Tharoor) during IPL . I will not allow this to be done to me.”
In April 2010, she had to give up a stake, estimated at Rs. 70 core, in the Kochi IPL team after allegations of corruption against her and Tharoor created a controversy.
Pushkar had posted around two dozen tweets in the last 24 hours, mostly regarding the controversy with Tarar.
In one of her tweets, she hinted Tarar had made “similar overtures” towards Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah. The J&K CM told HT he was dismayed and requested Pushkar not to drag him into the controversy.
Tharoor called his wife’s outburst “mystifying”, in a comment to a newspaper, and remained silent thereafter.
During the peak of the Twitter spat, Tarar had hit back at Puskar, saying, “Unbelievable. The audacity” and “I have nothing to say to a woman clearly out of her mind”.
Talking to HT from Lahore by phone, Tarar had said, “My request to Mrs Tharoor is not to call me an ISI agent. Please tell her that my son is very upset.”
“She can call me whatever she wants, but calling me an ISI agent is just crazy. I hope Mr Tharoor has a successful marriage. I hope he wins elections.”
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency.
Read: Security cover at Tharoor's Thiruvananthapuram office, home
In a joint statement, Tharoor and Pushkar had on Thursday said they were happily married and intended to stay together. In an interview with NDTV, Pushkar had refuted reports that she was contemplating divorcing the 57-year-old minister.
After the NDTV interview, Pushkar again tweeted: “Sad for her to know i guess (sic).”
This prompted a post from Tarar that read: “The wife trashed the husband. Now doing WTH damage control. Isse kehte hain apne hee giraate hain nashemaan pe biljlian (a house is destroyed by its own inhabitants only).”
Read: Mehr Tarar 'absolutely shocked' at Pushkar's death
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Read: Pakistani journalist takes on Sunanda
Here are the people's reactions to the incident on Twitter: