World News

Dashing Politician in India Is Accused of Driving Wife to Suicide

Posted May 14, 2018 4:32 p.m. EDT

NEW DELHI — Shashi Tharoor, one of India’s suavest and most influential opposition politicians, was charged Monday with driving his wife to kill herself, four years after she was found dead under mysterious circumstances.

Tharoor has worked at a high level for the United Nations in New York, written more than a dozen books, including several widely praised novels, and served in the Cabinet of a previous Indian government.

He was widely seen as prime minister material, but ever since his wife, Sunanda Pushkar, was found dead in a hotel room in 2014, he has faced a barrage of allegations, rumors and suspicions.

Monday, police officials in New Delhi, the capital, said that they had “medico-legal and forensic evidence” tying Tharoor to his wife’s death, announcing that he had been charged with cruelty to a woman and abetting suicide.

He has denied any foul play, and his supporters in the Congress Party, which now leads India’s opposition, have dismissed the case against him as politically motivated, saying the governing party was threatened by Tharoor and was trying to ruin his reputation.

In a blast of Twitter messages Monday, he called the charges “preposterous.”

“No one who knew Sunanda believes she would ever have committed suicide, let alone abetment on my part,” he said. “If this is conclusion arrived at after 4+ yrs. of investigation, it does not speak well of the methods or motivations of the Delhi Police.”

He added that officials had said in October that they had not found “anything against anyone & now in 6 months they say that I have abetted a suicide. Unbelievable!”

Police officials did not respond to several calls for more information.

Tall, handsome and unnervingly self-confident, Tharoor, 62, is a regular on the Delhi dinner party circuit. He has a commanding voice, a rich Oxbridge accent and a huge vocabulary.

In his social media posts, he loves to sprinkle in a few 25-cent words such as “farrago” or even “snollygoster.” When he sweeps into a room, wearing his silk scarves and beautifully tailored suits, heads turn.

But his tempestuous relationship with Pushkar, his third wife, grabbed more attention than even he could handle.

Their marital troubles were splashed across the pages of India’s biggest newspapers. Shortly before she died, she accused him, in public, of having a “rip-roaring affair” with a Pakistani journalist, who, she added, might be a spy. Both he and the journalist denied it.

A few days later, as he was returning from a gathering of Congress Party leaders, he said he found his wife dead in a hotel suite, fully clothed and lying on the bed. One of the doctors who performed the autopsy said there were injury marks on her body, but he did not divulge any more details.

India is gearing up for national elections next year. Several high-ranking officials with the Hindu nationalist governing party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, have accused Tharoor of killing his wife. On Monday, many of the party’s supporters were gloating.