New Delhi: Amid the Congress’ clamour for M J Akbar’s resignation over accusations of sexual harassment by several women as part of the #MeToo campaign, an NDTV report on Thursday quoted government sources as saying that the Union minister will take a call on whether to step down.
It is reported that a final call on Akbar’s resignation would be taken on his return from his Nigerial visit later this week. The allegations of sexual harassment against the former editor also cast a shadow on the Narendra Modi government’s push for women’s economic and social empowerment with its flagship schemes like Ujjwala, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Mudra and the Triple Talaq ordinance.
The portal quoted sources denying reports of Akbar being asked by the top leadership to cut short his overseas trip and resign. “These are speculative stories. Akbar’s version would be heard after he returns,” they said.
Meanwhile, ANI quoted sources as saying that Akbar’s position in the government was untenable and that something big on him could be expected soon. They further said that Akbar could be asked to quit the ministry and work for the party instead.
People familiar with the development also told ANI that the government was serious about its pro-women image at international forums, and thus, couldn’t afford to have someone with a tainted image representing the country abroad.
While top BJP brass including External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and party spokesperson, have dodged questions on Akbar, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi was the first party leader to call for an investigation against him.
“There should be an investigation. Men in position of power often do this. This applies to media, politics and seniors working in companies. Now that women have started speaking out, we should take it seriously,” Gandhi told India Today.
“Women are scared of speaking out thinking people will make fun of them or question their character. Now that women are speaking up we should take action on each and every allegation,” she added.
On the other hand, the Congress has ramped up pressure on government, saying that Akbar must either offer a satisfactory explanation on the allegations of sexual harassment against him or resign immediately, even as it demanded an inquiry into his conduct.
The Opposition party also hit out at External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for not responding to a question on action against her junior minister after allegations were levelled against him, terming it “extremely unfortunate”.
As the #MeToo campaign gathered momentum in India, some women journalists have come out and accused Akbar, a former editor and now the Minister of State for External Affairs, of sexually harassing them during his stint as a journalist. Akbar was an editor of many publications before he took to politics.