New Delhi, Jan. 16: Comedian Vir Das’s tweet perhaps best sums up the tangle that Union minister Shashi Tharoor finds himself in just months before the general election: “Hell hath no fury like a woman with your password.”
A 24-hour online catfight between the junior HRD minister’s wife Sunanda Pushkar and Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar, with Mrs Tharoor accusing Tarar of stalking her husband, has gone viral on Twitter.
Pushkar first threatened to divorce her husband for “having an affair” with Tarar, whom she has labelled an “ISI agent.” Then, she accused the journalist of being a stalker who was trying to woo her husband. By late afternoon, she had done an about-turn, declaring that she and her husband were “happily married”.
But the vitriol against 45-year-old Tarar, who lives in Lahore with a teenage son, continued on Twitter and on television. By evening, Pushkar had called the freelance journalist an intrepid “hacker” who managed to tweet from the accounts of both Pushkar and Tharoor and described the matter as a “national emergency”, serious enough to be taken up by both the Pakistan and the Indian high commissions.
The drama unfolded yesterday when Tharoor’s followers on Twitter, who number over two million, found that a personal tweet the minister had received from Tarar had been made public on his Twitter handle. It read: “@mehrtarar I love you, Shashi Tharoor. And I go while in love with you, irrevocably, irreversibly, hamesha. Bleeding, but always your Mehr.”
More such tweets followed — these have since been deleted from his account but remain as screen grabs on the social networking site.
Pushkar later admitted she had logged into her husband’s Twitter account and leaked the tweets. She also told a newspaper that Tharoor was having an affair with Tarar since April last year.
It isn’t unusual for couples to share email and social networking passwords, but it doesn’t often lead to a public scandal.
Journalists who had interacted with the minister just after he married Pushkar said he would frequently CC his wife in replies to their mails. Many a time, the lady is known to have added her comments.
“Leave us Indians alone and stop talking to my husband and pleading with him, its degrading respect yourself as a woman,” Pushkar tweeted early this morning.
Tarar didn’t sit quiet. “A wife who claims to love her husband drags his name through dirt, brings an imaginary personal thing on media, & ends up becoming a joke. I have nothing to say to a woman clearly out of her mind. For a woman to trash another woman linking her w/her husband is the lowest form of sickness ever. It’s nauseous. No respect for her marriage,” she retorted.
The journalist further tweeted: “The blonde’s aqal is weaker thn her grammar & spellings. From an ‘affair’ it has become ‘stalking’ů. make up yr mind, darlin’. Which one is it?”
Adapting Shah Rukh Khan’s lines from My Name is Khan, she also wrote, “My name is Mehr, and I am not an ISI agent. Or RAW. Or CIA. Or Mossad. Or even the dead KGB.”
However, hours after Pushkar raised the storm on Twitter, she and Tharoor issued a joint statement on the minister’s Facebook page saying that they were “happily married”.
“We are distressed by the unseemly controversy that has arisen about some unauthorised tweets from our Twitter accounts. Various distorted accounts of comments allegedly made by Sunanda have appeared in the press. It appears that some personal and private comments responding to these unauthorised tweets — comments that were not intended for publication — have been misrepresented and led to some erroneous conclusions. We wish to stress that we are happily married and intend to remain that way. Sunanda has been ill and hospitalised this week and is seeking to rest. We would be grateful if the media respects our privacy,” it said.
The statement contradicted a television interview in the morning in which Pushkar conceded that she had tweeted at least twice to Tarar today.
“I was just trying to tell my husband that stay away from her because it’s election year. I was also a bit annoyed by a girl lying about me, trying to get close to my husband. He (Shashi) is a minister, I am a common person, aam aadmi. I get upset. I am a human being,” she had said.
Even after the joint statement, she continued to attack Tarar, calling her a “hacker” and the incident a “national emergency” in another interview. “I will make sure she is behind bars,” she added.
Tarar, having already denied an affair with Tharoor, tweeted just after the joint statement was made public: “The wife trashed the husband. Now doing WTH damage control. Isse kehte hain apne hee giraate hain nashemaan pe biljlian.....” (your own people destroy your nest).”
Sources close to the couple told The Telegraph trouble was brewing between them for a long time, but they had decided to keep their differences aside till the general elections. Just a couple of days ago, at a wedding reception they attended in Dubai, Pushkar allegedly threw alchohol on a journalist who asked for an interview with her husband. Tharoor denied the incident in a Facebook statement on January 14.
The first signs of trouble in their relationship were noticed when Tharoor’s 2012 book, Pax Indica, was released in paperback in 2013 without the hardback foreword dedicated to his wife: “To my wife Sunanda who is the love of my life and the life of my love. Usually forewords remain the same in both versions, unless removed on the request of the author.
Sources also say that Tharoor and his wife who were once regulars on the capital’s social scene now attended events separately. For the past few months Tharoor has been doing the rounds of his constituency Thiruvananthapuram while Pushkar has mostly been away in Dubai.
“Picture toh abhi baki hai, this was just the trailer,” said a source close to the couple who suggested Pushkar was not someone to be taken lightly.