The mystery deepens

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The mystery deepens

Tharoor’s fate now lies with the police and the courts

By Rahul Singh (insight)

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Published: Mon 19 Jan 2015, 10:21 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 11:17 PM

TOUGH TIMES… Shashi Tharoor faces the media — AFP file photo

TOUGH TIMES… Shashi Tharoor faces the media — AFP file photo

The mystery of Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor’s death, a year ago, deepens, day by day. The Delhi police are convinced it was a case of murder and are proceeding, accordingly. They have been questioning a number of people, including Shashi Tharoor’s domestic help, Narain Singh, and those who were the last to have seen Sunanda in her Delhi hotel (the hotel apparently has CCTV coverage of who entered and exited her room).

Two maverick Indian politicians have also entered the picture: Subramaniam Swamy and Amar Singh. Swamy, a former professor, minister and prominent member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claims that even if Tharoor did not commit the murder, he knows who did. What’s more, “seven politicians” will fall, once the murderer is identified, says Swamy, thereby fuelling frenzied speculation.

Amar Singh, another dodgy politician, who has had his ups and downs and loves mingling with Bollywood — he was once close to Amitabh Bachchan, bailing him out financially, before they fell out — revealed on January 15 to a TV channel that he had dined with Sunanda in Bangalore only a day before her death. The dinner continued till almost dawn and an agitated Sunanda claimed that she had nothing to do with the IPL cricket “mess” that Tharoor had got her into, and that she would disclose all this at a Press conference she was planning to hold (close friend of Sunanda, journalist Nalini Singh, who happens to be the sister of former editor and BJP minister, Arun Shourie, also said as much).

Needless to say, the Indian media, both electronic and print, have been having a ball over the new revelations, pointing the needle of suspicion on Tharoor. They remind me of those scenes on the “National Geographic” TV channel where, after a “kill”, the lions and lionesses indulge in a feeding frenzy. One particularly vociferous anchor even speculated that some kind of “mafia” did away with Sunanda, to prevent her from making damaging disclosures. But disclosures about what? The cricket IPL? Or the Pakistani lady that Sunanda suspected her husband was having an affair with? That Tharoor, or anybody else for that matter, could have murdered Sunanda over such issues sounds preposterous, to me at least. Perhaps, the Delhi police know better.

On his part, the usually voluble Tharoor has refused to answer to the media (though he will have to answer the Delhi police, who are due to question him very shortly). At the Kolkata literary festival that he attended on January 15, he lashed out at the Indian media, calling it “obnoxious” and “unprofessional”. There is, however, more than a touch of hypocrisy in Tharoor’s anti-media tirade. After all, in the past, when he was riding high, he lost no opportunity to court and woo the media, constantly appearing on TV and giving interviews to the Press.

His good looks, and his articulateness, made him a big media favourite. He guaranteed a good sound byte. On the social media, too, he was a big hit, his twitter following being second only to actor Amitabh Bachchan. Tharoor fed on the media and it fed on him. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. His friendship and then his subsequent marriage to Sunanda also took place in the glare of high-voltage publicity — publicity that both of them promoted and reveled in. The irony is that the feeding frenzy has now become entirely one way, Tharoor having become the “kill”.

Be that as it may, before Tharoor’s meltdown, he had within a remarkably short time, become one of the best-known personalities in India, admired for his looks and intellect (he is the author of several critically-acclaimed books, fiction and non-fiction). From a senior official of the United Nations, who had spent all his working life abroad, he bravely decided to enter the hurly-burly of Indian politics, and won two successive Parliamentary elections. I, for one, applauded him, saying that if more people like him entered Indian politics, India would be the better for it. Then, hubris seems to have set in.

Tharoor mirrors another high-profile personality who, in much the same fashion, had a meteoric rise and an equally precipitous fall: Tarun Tejpal, founder editor of Tehelka magazine, and now embroiled in a rape case. Both men were once lauded by the media only to become reviled hate figures. Their fate now lies with the police and the law courts. Will Tharoor and Tejpal be able to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes?

Rahul Singh is the former editor of Reader’s Digest, Indian Express and Khaleej Times

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