As police probed the death of Sunanda Pushkar, the Congress leadership on Saturday stood by Union Minister Shashi Tharoor who chose to maintain public silence.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed “shock” and “deep sadness” over his colleague’s bereavement and told Tharoor that “we are with you in this hour of grief” while Congress president Sonia Gandhi drove to his residence late in the evening.
Hours after Pushkar was cremated, Gandhi went to Tharoor’s Lodhi Estate residence to offer her condolences. She was accompanied by senior leaders Ambika Soni, Ahmed Patel, Mukul Wasnik, Ashwani Kumar and Rajiv Shukla.
While the Congress stood by Tharoor, his political rivals in Kerala sighted an opportunity and demanded an independent probe into the death of Pushkar, days after the discord in their marital life spilled into the public domain and she accused her husband of having an affair with a Pakistani journalist. She had even told The Sunday Express that she would seek divorce from him.
In a condolence message to his cabinet colleague, the Prime Minister said: “It is with shock and deep sadness that I learnt about your bereavement. The loss of one’s companion is indeed irreparable but I would like you to know that we are with you in this hour of grief. May God give you strength to tide over this difficult time.”
Barring Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Union Ministers R P N Singh and J D Seelam, none of the Congress leaders though attended the last rites at the Lodhi Road crematorium. It was largely a family-and-friends affair and Pushkar’s 21-year-old son Shiv Menon performed the last rites in the presence of her father, brothers and Tharoor’s sister.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad met Tharoor at the AIIMS where he was admitted earlier in the day while Defence Minister A K Antony and his cabinet colleagues like Vayalar Ravi, K C Venugopal, K Suresh, Pallam Raju, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit went to his residence when the body of Pushkar was brought there.
With the cause of her death still a mystery, both the CPM and the CPI demanded a probe. “There should be an independent probe… since he is a Union Minister,” CPM politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said.