Political storm after MJ Akbar refuses to resign, rejects sexual harassment allegations
A bitter political storm is brewing as Union minister of state for external affairs, MJ Akbar, declined on Sunday to quit from the government over charges of sexual harassment levelled against him by former colleagues from when he was a journalist.
In a statement released hours after he returned to India from an official trip, Akbar described the charges as politically motivated, “false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice”, and said he would take legal action.
“My lawyers will look into these wild and baseless allegations in order to decide our future course of legal action,” he said.
The Congress responded soon after through spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi, who tweeted: “I wonder how over a dozen women sharing their experiences can be claimed as political conspiracy? Bigger wonder is which constituency does his stepping down impact in elections?”
A senior functionary in the party said on condition of anonymity that Mahila Congress – the women’s wing of the party – will launch a nationwide campaign from tomorrow, starting from Akbar’s residence in New Delhi.
The Union government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have largely been silent since the allegations surfaced, and have maintained that the allegations do not concern the government or Akbar’s tenure as minister, and that it is up to him to clarify and take a stand.
A BJP functionary, explaining the position of the party, said on Sunday that the minister will have a chance to present his case and address the accusations.
Akbar, who returned from a week-long tour to Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria, said in his statement: “Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge.”
Hours before his statement, the Congress targeted Prime Minister Modi for being silent on the issue. “Let the country judge the Prime Minister by his actions. So far, his silence has been conspicuous. A Prime Minister, who swears by ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’, a Prime Minister who talks of women’s dignity …..This Prime Minister has chosen to be silent,” senior leader Anand Sharma said, referring to the government’s flagship schemes for women’s empowerment.
The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the ruling BJP, last week came out in support of the #MeToo movement. “The tweet that was put out by the joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale [supporting the movement] is an indication of the Sangh’s view,” a senior RSS functionary said on Sunday.