New Delhi: Sunanda Pushkar, the late wife of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, harboured political ambitions and was even keen to contest from Kashmir on a BJP ticket, a new book on her life has revealed. She even wanted to be introduced to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as she thought she had the potential to become “a major political leader” in India.
The book, titled The Extraordinary Life and Death of Sunanda Pushkar, has been authored by Sunanda Mehta, and details Pushkar’s life right from her near-stillbirth in June 1964 to her mysterious death in January 2014. Tharoor is an accused in the case of her death.
“Abhinav Kumar (former private secretary to Tharoor) reveals that amongst Sunanda’s many startling words were those revolving around her own political ambitions. She would stride into Tharoor’s office and say to his staff: ‘Do you think this joker will win the next election?’ or ‘I will get the BJP ticket from Kashmir and I will win’.”
The book recounts another incident witnessed by journalist Tarun Tejpal, a family friend, during a dinner at a parliamentarian’s house in Lutyens’ Delhi.
“It was a largely political crowd, with a few businessmen and media people also present. There were about seven to eight individuals at Sunanda’s table, and she had got a bit drunk. She began to repeatedly ask somebody at the table from the Congress party to introduce her to Priyanka Gandhi.
“‘I know she and I will become the best of friends; I am going to enter politics and I am going to become a major political leader in this country. Shashi is not the politician; I really am the one who does all the work and who has helped him become the politician’, she declared to everyone around her,” the book states.
The Dubai days
The book sheds light on Pushkar’s early life in Delhi, Dubai and Canada, and her first two marriages, before she became Mrs Tharoor.
While detailing her Dubai days, the book points out how Pushkar managed to rise in Dubai’s social circles as she took up the position of a sales manager at TECOM and started work on many prestigious real estate projects like the International Media Production Free Zone.
“With Dubai’s new status as the destination of the future, there was also a beeline of celebrities from India for a piece of the pie. This brought Sunanda into close contact with Indian film stars, politicians and cricketers — the troika that rules the Indian firmament. Shah Rukh Khan booked his house, a signature villa at Palm Jumeirah, through Sunanda, and also recommended her to other film stars like Priyanka Chopra,” it states.
Family doesn’t suspect suicide or murder
The book also focuses on her troubled relationship with Tharoor, and documents the entire investigation into her death, highlighting the three theories of suicide, murder and accidental drug overdose. Her family does not see her death as suicide or murder, but says that the truth should come out.
“Neither Sunanda’s brothers nor her son Shiv suspect murder at all, and certainly not the hand of her husband in it. Rajesh has seen immense love between Sunanda and Tharoor, and Tharoor is simply not of a murderous disposition. ‘He can’t harm a fly and she was too strong a person’, says Rajesh,” the book states.
It also quotes Vijaypat Singhania, the former owner of the Raymond Group of textile and clothing companies, cautioning Pushkar not to marry Tharoor.
“Singhania was deeply touched by her devotion to her son. He noticed how this single mother always had his welfare in mind in everything she did. Tharoor, however, left him cold. Singhania met him for the first time just before the wedding and it took him only a few minutes to size up the minister and tell Sunanda, ‘Don’t marry him, Sue. You will never be happy with him’.”
Didn’t get along with Tharoor’s family
Kumar, a former IPS officer and Oxford graduate who, as Tharoor’s personal secretary, was privy to much of the goings-on in the household, claimed that Tharoor’s family and Pushkar were not on good terms.
“Sunanda was more into glamour and partying. ‘I daresay she started harbouring a sense of inadequacy, leading to insecurity’,” the book quotes Kumar as saying.
It narrates an incident in June 2013 where Tharoor’s family, while planning a reunion in England, where one of his sisters lives, hinted in an email “that it would be nicer if he came alone for the reunion. Sunanda chanced upon the emails and, as expected, this triggered a vehement outburst, leading to the above incident when Tharoor lost his otherwise calm composure”.
“It is after this incident that Abhinav gave strict instructions to the household staff to let him know all details of any showdown between Tharoor and Sunanda, in case things got out of hand. ‘Because by now I knew there were times when their fights would become physical, and I didn’t want any of them to land up in the hospital’,” Kumar is quoted as saying.
Both Tharoor and Pushkar had sons from their previous marriages. The book says the “couple seriously considered having a child together, in the hope that it would be a girl”.
“‘Sunanda and Shashi were very keen to have a daughter and talked to me about it. They did try too, and consulted various doctors as well, but it didn’t happen. Of course, later, when things started to go wrong, this desire also vanished’,” her friend Regina is quoted as saying.
Mehr Tarar and the decline of the marriage
The book also talks about Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar and Pushkar’s suspicion about Tharoor being involved with her — an issue that set off an angry chain of events in the marriage in the last days of Pushkar’s life.
“I just wish I had not replied to her tweets that day. That’s my biggest regret. I should have just kept quiet,” Tarar is quoted as saying in one of the rare statements she has made on record since Pushkar’s death in 2014.
It also gives a detailed account of what transpired at the Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences in Thiruvananthapuram, where Pushkar was admitted a few days before her death. She was accompanied by Tharoor and Regina.
It was, in fact, Regina who stayed until all the tests were completed as Tharoor was busy with election campaigning.
“The next day, on 15 January, the couple left for Delhi after Sunanda’s medical examination at KIMS was complete. On the flight, which also carried Congress leader Manish Tewari, once again matters came to a head,” the book states.
Pushkar found Tarar’s number saved under the name ‘Harish’, and also found some messages exchanged between her and Tharoor, which left her angry.
“Already emotionally vulnerable and high-strung, this was the tipping point for Sunanda and she flew into a feral rage. An argument ensued and, as always, escalated into a major fight. A livid Sunanda slapped Tharoor in full view of the people in the aircraft,” the book states.
Wanted to take care of son through a will
Another fact that emerges from the book is that a few months before her death, Pushkar wanted to make a will and ensure her son Shiv was taken care of, and had discussed this with a lawyer Rohit Kochhar.
“Rohit recalls that even though Sunanda did talk to him about the will during the flight, she never followed it up formally with a request for a professional meeting for its actual preparation. But she had mentioned a few important details she wanted included in the will. One of them was repayment of the money she owed Tharoor, a debt in the region of two million dollars,” the book states.
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The writer seems to be concluding that Shashi is innocent and the devil Sunanda was with her over abmitious goal to be politics. Even though they were mature enough at the time of their marriage, both have been fighting cat and mouse. Until the real investigation is completed (we do not know when it will be completed), the guess work of the writers and journalists become the big news. In fact, it is one way or the other influencing the judiciary.
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