Union minister Shashi Tharoor and his wife Sunanda today said they are "happily married and intend to remain that way."
The declaration comes after Sunanda P Tharoor deployed a series of white-hot tweets to a Pakistani journalist, Mehr Tarar, accusing her of "stalking" Mr Tharoor and of being "an ISI agent."
In a phone interview with NDTV this morning, Mrs Tharoor refuted newspaper reports that she is contemplating a divorce. "I don't have any intention of leaving him at the moment. It's an election year and I was trying to protect him," she said. (Sunanda speaks to NDTV)
Mrs Tharoor then handed her phone to the minister, who declined to comment. The couple issued a statement an hour later in which they said, "We are distressed by the unseemly controversy that has arisen about some unauthorised tweets from our Twitter accounts... we wish to stress that we are happily married and intend to remain that way." (Read full text of statement here)
Ms Tarar, the Pakistani reporter targeted by Mrs Pushkar, tweeted this morning, "I have nothing to say to a woman clearly out of her mind. To be called an ISI agent, a stalker... I have nothing to add. Just shows who she is."
The scandal comes just ahead of tomorrow's massive meeting of Mr Tharoor's party, the Congress, which is expected to culminate in an announcement of a larger role for Vice President Rahul Gandhi. The conclave is also expected to focus on how to energize the party's campaign ahead of the national election due by May. Allegations of an affair and what's being seen as an attempt to seek reprisal on a public platform could irk the minister's party as it confronts the challenge of getting re-elected for a third consecutive time.
Mr Tharoor is a Member of Parliament from Kerala, and was an early adapter to Twitter among politicians. He has over two million followers and has tried to proselytize other members of his party into using Twitter to communicate their opinions and respond to public questions and complaints.
In 2009, in the midst of a cost-cutting drive by the government, he tweeted about traveling "cattle class", provoking strong criticism from his party.
The next year, he had to resign from his first ministerial post after allegations that Sunanda, who he married that year, had been given a free stake in the Kerala team in the money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL).