3 Jun 2015

Shashi Tharoor on politics, India and his wife’s death

Shashi Tharoor is one of India’s best known politicians, with international recognition as an acclaimed author and former UN diplomat.

But Shashi Tharoor’s personal life has been embroiled in controversy since the death of his wife last year.

After a distinguished career at the UN, eventually serving as Under-Secretary General he became a candidate to replace Kofi Annan in 2008 but was beaten to the post by Ban Ki-moon.

Instead he entered the Indian parliament as a member of the Congress Party and soon became a minister.

He resigned from his first ministerial post in 2010 after revelations that his then-girlfriend Sunanda Pushkar had been given a free stake in a new Indian Premier League cricket team.

Tharoor maintained he had exerted no undue influence and had done nothing wrong but stepped down to avoid controversy for the government.

The 57 year old married Sunanda Pushkar shortly afterwards and with her successful business background and his high political profile they were a regular fixture in New-Delhi’s glamourous social circles.

But in January, 2014, Ms Pushkar was found dead in a luxury hotel.

It was suggested that tweets from her days before her death alleged that he was being romantically pursued by a female Pakistani Journalist.

He and his wife insisted that they were “happily married and intend to remain that way”.

Ms Pushkar was initially suspected of taking her own life but months on police said they were treating his wife’s death as murder following a new medical report.

Tharoor said he was stunned by the announcement – saying that he had never “thought of any foul play” in her death, and that he was “anxious to see that this case is investigated thoroughly.”

The incident and investigation has dealt a severe blow to Tharoor’s public image.

He has been hounded by the Indian media asking him questions about the murder case, and about lie-detector tests on the suspects.

Most recently a doctor involved in the post-mortem claimed pressure had been brought to bear on him to record a death by natural causes. That was denied by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

Through all of this Tharoor remains a functioning politician not just on the Indian but the world stage.

He is a fierce critic of the Modi government, which a year on is being widely lauded abroad. Recently it claimed to have wiped out the word “corruption” from the Indian political lexicon.

In a country with as much corruption as India that is a very bold claim indeed, and that is where he started our interview.

Tweets by @krishgm