M.J. Akbar. Photo: PTI
M.J. Akbar. Photo: PTI

M.J. Akbar had to step down as BJP promotes women’s safety: party leaders

The BJP was also under pressure from NDA leaders who nudged the central govt to let Akbar quit the top post

New Delhi: Fearing that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was rapidly losing the perception battle in the #MeToo campaign against junior external affairs minister M.J. Akbar, party leaders believe that the minister of state should have resigned soon after returning from his tour of Africa.

Members of the BJP argue that the decision to let Akbar go took three days to implement because the Union government wanted to give him time to present his side of the story before taking a final call. BJP leaders said the decision to ensure that Akbar resigns from the top post was taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah.

“He should have resigned earlier. The party, government and the top leadership has talked about promoting education for girl child, so we could not have been siding with a minister who has been accused by several women of misconduct. The party cannot afford to lose the perception battle when women are facing harassment," said a senior BJP leader.

More than a dozen women have accused Akbar of sexually harassing them during his days as a journalist. While opposition parties consistently demanded Akbar’s resignation, BJP leaders also came under pressure from leaders of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) who also asked the government to let Akbar go.

“Opposition was asking him to resign on moral grounds. This is a right decision taken by him. The allegations against him should be properly investigated," Union minister Ramdas Athawale told ANI on Wednesday.

The issue, which comes ahead of elections in five states and Lok Sabha polls in a little over six months, is likely to have political ramifications with the opposition Congress and Left parties having demanded his resignation.

Soon after Akbar resigned on Wednesday, the Congress stepped up its attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding that he speak up on the issue. The Congress’ youth wing had held protests earlier this week demanding Akbar’s resignation.

“Now that M.J. Akbar, who has been accused by 36 women of misconduct and harassment, has finally resigned, will the PM, Narendra Modi, dare to speak up?...The radio silence of the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, has deceived those crores of women voters who had placed their faith in the BJP in 2014," said Ragini Nayak, Congress leader and convener of the party’s foreign affairs department.

Political analyst feel that Akbar’s days were numbered as the Centre could not have continued with him for long.

“It was politically incorrect to have M.J. Akbar in office. The government is going to face elections and his days were numbered. The BJP government has been talking of girl child education and women’s safety—Akbar’s continuation in office had become difficult," said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a Delhi-based political analyst associated with the Centre for Study of Developing Societies.

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