Akbar quit as BJP was losing perception battle

Akbar quit as BJP was losing perception battle

Though there is no exact parallel between the two, the government had dragged on for two years before dropping another Union Minister, Nihal Chand, from the Union Cabinet in 2016 after a local court had summoned him in 2014 in a rape case.

The minister had denied the charge and the government did not drop him until four others were removed in a Cabinet reshuffle in 2016.

This time, there was no criminal case against Akbar but the fact that 20 women journalists, who worked or wanted to work in the news organisations headed by him, levelled identical allegations and refused to budge even after he lodged a defamation case against one of them, made the BJP look like it was losing the perception battle. 

The #MeToo campaign which swept social media and took a toll on Akbar’s political career, swept India at a time when the Central government was trying to impact gender issues with campaigns like ‘beti bachao, beti padhao’ and citing its strong backing for abolition of ‘triple talaq’ as pro-women moves.

Akbar’s continuance as a minister was a huge embarrassment to Modi government. Even after he filed a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, there was no end to complaints against him. Two more women came out against Akbar post the defamation case, while 20 women signed a testimony pressing that the court should hear them out, when it takes up the defamation case.

Welcoming Akbar’s resignation, Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said, “If 20 women are saying this, there must be some truth in it. These women are not related to any political party. It is said there is no smoke without a fire. A person should listen to his conscience.”

'Feel vindicated'

Soon after Akbar's resignation on Wednesday, Ramani said on Twitter: “As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar’s resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court.”

Former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao tweeted: “So glad that Minister MJ Akbar has resigned. His continuation was untenable and indefensible. A big shoutout to all the brave women journalists who called him out for his alleged sickening and exploitative behaviour towards them.”  

Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said the resignation of Akbar is a vindication of the power of truth even if it began with one brave person speaking up.

Left parties said Akbar’s resignation was a victory for India’s #MeToo movement. CPI’s D Raja and Sudhakhar Reddy said the resignation came “too late”.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra denied that the resignation came “late”. He claimed that the government was “quite sensitive” to women's issues.

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