- MJ Akbar accused sexual harassment by several women
- On returning to India today, he denied charges, warned of legal action
- Very few political leaders have come out in support of women on the issue
Union minister MJ Akbar today said the sexual harassment allegations against him were politically motivated, pointing out that they have surfaced just a few months before next year's general elections. Sources in the BJP ruled out his resignation, saying it would set a bad precedent.
The MeToo movement that has been sweeping across the country, however, has received a lukewarm response from the opposition.So far, few opposition parties have showed support for the women who have come out with claims of sexual harassment against the minister. The only ones to speak up were the Congress, the CPM and the AIMIM or All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.
The parties are yet to respond to Mr Akbar's statement, in which he trashed the allegations and warned of legal action against his accusers.
Sources said the allegations against Mr Akbar has not been backed by the several key opposition parties - including the Trinamool Congress, Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party - as it has been seen as a niche issue that involves only a handful of journalists from the English media.
The BJP, sources said, is also going by the assumption that MeToo is purely an urban phenomenon concerning privileged women, who have no contact with their real voter base -- which lies in the villages.
A few days ago, BJP chief Amit Shah was quoted as saying, "We need to have an internal inquiry, we don't know if these allegations made in #MeToo are correct or not". The BJP spokespersons were repeatedly asked about MeToo, but they refused to comment or acknowledge it, even though the entertainment industry and the media was witnessing an upheaval.
Only three ministers of the BJP have spoken on the issue so far. Two of them are women - Maneka Gandhi and Smriti Irani. While the former sought investigation against the minister, Ms Irani said the "gentleman" is "better positioned" to issue a statement on the matter.
MJ Akbar's boss, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, has not commented on the allegations against him
The women who accused MJ Akbar of sexual harassment are mostly journalists. The list includes Priya Ramani, Prerna Singh Bindra, Ghazala Wahab, Shutapa Paul, Anju Bharti, Suparna Sharma, Shuma Raha, Malini Bhupta, Kanika Gahlout, Kadambari M Wade, Majlie de Puy Kamp and Ruth David.
They are yet to respond to Mr Akbar's statement.
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