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Published: Saturday January 18, 2014 MYT 4:20:02 PM
Updated: Saturday January 18, 2014 MYT 4:20:59 PM

Wife of Indian minister found dead in hotel room after Twitter row

Sunanda Puskhar Tharoor (R), wife of India's Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor, poses with her husband at the Indian F1 Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, October 27, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Sunanda Puskhar Tharoor (R), wife of India's Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor, poses with her husband at the Indian F1 Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, October 27, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The wife of an Indian minister was found dead in a New Delhi hotel room on Friday, police said, days after she was involved in a row with a Pakistan-based woman journalist over Twitter.

It was not immediately clear how Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor, wife of junior human resource development minister Shashi Tharoor, had died, Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.

Police have launched an inquest and the body has been sent for post-mortem.

"She was lying in bed," the minister's personal assistant, Abhinav Kumar, told reporters outside the luxury hotel. "There were no signs of any foul play or any struggle...She had no sign of poisoning or anything."

Tharoor was taken to hospital early on Saturday after he complained of chest pain. A doctor said he was stable.

His wife Sunanda, 52, had been embroiled this week in a spat with the Pakistan-based journalist, Mehr Tarar, whom she accused of stalking her husband in a series of Twitter posts.

Sunanda said she had gone into her husband's Twitter account and put out private messages that she said Tarar had sent to her husband over Blackberry Messenger.

Tarar denied she was having an affair with the Indian minister and said she would sue Sunanda for defamation. The scandal was splashed on the front pages of newspapers and went viral on social media.

Tharoor, a former U.N. diplomat whose Twitter handle showed more than 2 million followers and who has been one of the most active users of the microblogging site in government, made no comment at that time.

On Thursday, the Indian couple issued a statement saying they were distressed by the controversy caused by unauthorised use of their Twitter accounts. They said they were happily married and intended to stay that way.

Sunanda was not well, the couple added, and asked for privacy.

CONTROVERSY

Tharoor, 57, who is also the author of several books, married Sunanda in 2010, in a third marriage for both.

Earlier that year he had been forced to resign from his first ministerial job after accusations linking him to a company bidding for a cricket team in the lucrative Indian Premier League from his home state of Kerala.

Sunanda had a stake in the company at the time.

Tharoor's aides said the couple had checked into the luxury hotel this week because of renovation work at his Delhi bungalow.

On Friday, he left the hotel room to attend a session of the ruling Congress party in the capital but returned late in the day to find the door locked. It was forced open to reveal the body of his wife.

The Pakistani journalist Tarar said she was shocked by the death. "Oh my God...," she wrote in a Twitter post. "This is too awful for words. So tragic I don't know what to say. Rest in peace."

Tharoor has stirred controversy in the past by posting a message that he would travel "cattle class" following reports about his lavish lifestyle.

(Additional reporting by Vipin Das M; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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