M J Akbar links #MeToo charges to upcoming election

M J Akbar links #MeToo charges to upcoming election

Union minister M J Akbar (L), who is facing allegations of sexual harassment by a number of women journalists, at his residence after his arrival from a foreign tour, in New Delhi, on Sunday. PTI

Under fire for his alleged sexual misconduct during his days as one of India's topmost editors, Union Minister M J Akbar on Sunday questioned the timing of such disclosures while refuting each and every claim.

“Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge. These false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation and goodwill,” he said in a statement issued hours after he returned from Africa, where he was travelling on an official engagement.

“There's no story. But a sea of innuendo, speculation and abusive diatribe has been built around something that never happened. Some are total, unsubstantiated hearsay; others confirm, on the record, that I didn't do anything,” Akbar, once a formidable editor and a foremost journalist, said denying the narratives shared by at least a dozen women journalists on the social media.

The minister said his lawyers would scour through every one of the charges to decide on the future course of legal action. He didn't say anything about resignation from the post, even though it was widely speculated.

The strong denial from the Minister of State for External Affairs came days after BJP president Amit Shah too raised fingers on the claims of women scribes on the Twitter as a part of the #MeToo campaign that unearths sexual offences of several celebrities and famous persons around the world.

In an interview to a TV channel on Friday, Shah said the party would have to check the veracity of the post and the person who posted it. “You can also post something using my name. We will definitely look into the issue,” he had stated.

Only two ministers in the government — Maneka Gandhi and Smriti Irani — spoke in support of the #MeToo campaign against Akbar. While Maneka favoured an investigation, Smriti stated there was no need to doubt the women who broke their silence and its up to Akbar to explain. Both spoke before Shah's comments.

Others in the government including Akbar's immediate boss and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj maintained silence when asked about the #MeToo campaign and Akbar.

Meanwhile, some of the journalists and critics of Akbar wondered why the minister — a Rajya Sabha member with no constituency to defend — was to take the recourse of electoral logic to defend his personal deeds committed years ago.