NEW DELHI: Hemmed by charges of sexual harassment from about 20 former colleagues, journalist-turned-politician M J Akbar resigned as the Minister of State for External Affairs on Wednesday. He became the first minister under a cloud in the Narendra Modi government to put in his papers. Akbar had filed a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani on Monday as she was the first one to out him as part of the #MeToo movement.
While the BJP chose to stay mum, party insiders claimed it had become untenable for him to continue in office. It also became a huge embarrassment for the BJP in the run up to the crucial state polls. One leader admitted the party and the government were finding it difficult to even issue a statement on Akbar.
A video of party spokesperson Sambit Patra ducking questions on Akbar on Tuesday went viral, indicating how the BJP was squirming. And the Congress accepting the resignation of NSUI national president Fairoz Khan after charges of sexual harassment, acted as a catalyst.
Also, Modi’s prestigious education programme for girls, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, had come under severe attack for refusing to take action against Akbar.According to an insider, the BJP’s senior leadership took the call in the last 48 hours. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval first meeting Akbar and then sharing the outcome with party president Amit Shah were part of the developments that led to the resignation on Wednesday.
While defending Akbar had become impossible, a BJP leader remarked that losing him as a minister will not make any difference to the party. “He has never been known as a BJP leader. He doesn’t have any mass base,” the leader said.
Will fight false accusations in personal capacity, says Akbar
“Since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, also in a personal capacity.“I have, therefore, tendered my resignation from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs,” Akbar said in a statement while submitting his resignation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Tuesday, BJP’s ally Shiv Sena attacked at the Centre for not taking any action against Akbar. An editorial in Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna said people involved in mistreating women were in the Union Cabinet.
RSS Sah Sarkaryavah or Joint General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale’s remarks in support of the #MeToo movement perhaps gave the first push to Akbar. Hosabale took a screenshot of a post by a Facebook executive and tweeted it with his own comment, “I liked it. She has articulated what I was feeling.”
Akbar had joined the BJP in March 2014 as a national spokesperson. He was inducted into the Modi ministry in July 2016.
Priya Ramani, against whom Akbar has filed a defamation case, said she looked forward to the day when she would also get justice in court. “As women, we feel vindicated,” she said