New Delhi: More than a week after several women journalists levelled allegations of sexual harassment and molestation, former Editor M.J. Akbar on Wednesday resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs as the #MeToo movement claimed its first toll in Indian politics.
In a brief statement announcing his resignation, Akbar said he deemed it appropriate to fight the charges against him legally in a personal capacity, only two days after defying calls for his resignation when he returned from abroad on Sunday.
The resignation came as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was under attack from the opposition for his silence on the issue. Akbar’s continuance in the government appeared untenable in the face of growing accusations despite his filing a defamation suit against one of the accusers.
“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 levelled against me, also in a personal capacity.
“I have, therefore, tendered my resignation from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs. I am deeply grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave to serve my country,” he said.
On Sunday, after returning from a trip abroad, the Minister called the allegations levelled by about 15 women journalists, most of whom who had worked under him in the Asian Age daily, as “wild, baseless and false” and had threatened to sue them.
On Monday, he filed a defamation case against Priya Ramani, who was the first to come out against Akbar. It was followed by the accounts of travails undergone by other women journalists, including Ghazala Wahab who accused him of molestation.
The accounts continued to pour even after Akbar had filed the defamation case.
While the Congress demanded his resignation and removal, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders kept a studied silence.
On Tuesday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi made a veiled attack on Modi saying a man who gives the slogan “beti padhao, beti bachao” went silent when asked about allegations against his Minister.
The BJP had been maintaining a silence on the allegations against Akbar except a statement by party chief Amit Shah who said the charges have to be looked into.
The 67-year old Akbar, who had joined the BJP ahead of Lok Sabha elections in 2014, was inducted into the government in 2016.