New Delhi: MJ Akbar, who was accused of sexual misconduct by many of his former colleagues, has resigned as the MoS External Affairs over #MeToo allegations. The junior foreign minister has been accused of sexual harassment by over 20 women.
In a brief statement, Akbar said he had decided to seek justice in a court of law in his 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…,” Akbar said.
He also expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for giving him the opportunity to serve the country.
Akbar was accused of sexual harassment from his former colleagues during his stint as an editor in The Asian Age. He had termed the allegations against him as “baseless” and “fabricated” and filed a criminal defamation complaint against journalist Priya Ramani, who was the first to name him.
Union Minister MJ Akbar, who has been embroiled in sexual harassment allegations, returned to India on Sunday.
Akbar was on an official trip to Nigeria when his name surfaced in the #MeToo campaign earlier last week. Multiple women, mostly journalists including a US journalist 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 most of the party leaders refrained from speaking any further, some party sources said that the charges against him are serious, and his continuance as a minister is no longer guaranteed.
The BJP brought Akbar back from political oblivion after being a Lok Sabha MP from Kisanganj on Congress party ticket in 1989 and a favourite of ex-prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, made him first a party spokesman, then a Rajya Sabha MP and finally a minister of state in the high-profile external affairs ministry.
His elevation surprised many. Akbar had been a harsh critic of Narendra Modi, calling him a “Hitler whose enemy was Muslim” and “for whom a Hindu life was worth twice the life of a Muslim” and so on. However, it seemed like PM Modi was content to let bygones be bygones and induct Akbar into the Union council of ministers in 2016.