Union Minister M J Akbar, who has been embroiled in sexual harassment allegations, returned to India on Sunday. “There will be a statement later on,” Akbar told reporters in his first remarks on the controversy as he made his way out of the Delhi airport.
Akbar, the Minister of State for External Affairs, was on an official trip to Nigeria when his name surfaced in the #MeToo campaign earlier last week. Multiple women, mostly journalists, have claimed they were sexually harassed by Akbar during his stint as editor. Several Opposition parties, including the Congress, have called for Akbar’s resignation.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party has maintained a studied silence on the matter so far, many in the party believe that the charges against him are serious. The final call on Akbar’s future will be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they told PTI. “As of now, it depends on what stand he takes after the allegations and the pressure on the government over his resignation. Both the party and the government are watching it closely,” said a union minister who did not wish to be named.
— ANI (@ANI) October 14, 2018
Express Editorial | Mr Akbar must go
Earlier, BJP leader Smriti Irani said it was for Akbar to respond to the charges. “Do not judge those who are speaking out right now. They are mothers, daughters and wives. They are taking a big risk and it must be very difficult for them to speak out,” Irani said at a FICCI event in Mumbai. Asked about the allegations against Akbar, she said, “It is for the gentleman in question to issue a statement. It would not be proper for me to comment because I wasn’t present.”
Akbar is the first politician among several prominent individuals, including celebrity marketing consultant Suhel Seth, who stand accused of sexual harassment by women who are part of the #MeToo movement that is sweeping Indian media, films and entertainment.