BJP is likely to seek MJ Akbar’s explanation on the sexual harassment charges against him
Union Minister MJ Akbar arrived in Delhi this morning amid calls for his resignation over #MeToo allegations from several women over the last few days. Government sources say a final call will be taken by the Narendra Modi government on whether to retain him as minister or concede to the demand for his removal.
Mr Akbar, the minister of state for external affairs, was in Nigeria when his name came up in a #MeToo thread on social media earlier this week. Most of the women who have accused him of sexual harassment are journalists who had worked with Mr Akbar during his days as an editor.
“There will be a statement later on,” Mr Akbar told reporters as he came out of Delhi airport, news agency ANI reported.
Sources in the BJP admit that the charges against him are serious and his berth on the cabinet can no longer be guaranteed. A final call on the matter will be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they told news agency PTI.
– ANI (@ANI) October 14, 2018
There is also a view within the BJP that there is no legal case against him and that the allegations pertain to a time long before he became a minister. Some leaders also warn of the political cost of sacking a minister just before crucial state elections and next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
However, several union ministers have expressed solidarity with victims of sexual harassment, without specifically mentioning MJ Akbar.
On Thursday, Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani said, “Anybody who is speaking out should in no way be shamed, victimised or mocked”.
On being asked about Mr Akbar, she said, “I think that it is for the gentleman concerned to issue a statement, not for me as I was not present there”.
Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale was more direct. “MJ Akbar should resign if charges are proven true,” he said.
Maneka Gandhi, the union minister for women and child development, too asked for an investigation against him.
Several political parties such as the Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen have demanded Mr Akbar’s removal as minister.
The charges against Mr Akbar began with a tweet by journalist Priya Ramani on October 8, in which she said that an article she had written for Vogue India a year ago on her harrowing experience of sexual harassment was actually about MJ Akbar.
(With inputs from PTI)
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