A booklet featuring MJ Akbar, who resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs following allegations of sexual misconduct by several women, was distributed to delegates at the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas in Varanasi, triggering a controversy with the Congress attacking the government over it.
However, sources in the ministry said MJ Akbar is not at all associated with the event, and that the booklet was published in May last year, months before he quit as minister. The booklet highlighted achievements of the Ministry of External Affairs in the last four years and all the ministers in the MEA featured in it.
MJ Akbar had resigned as junior External Affairs Minister in the wake of allegation of sexual misconduct during his tenure as a senior editor two decades ago. The alleged incidents came to light during the #metoo movement. MJ Akbar had denied the allegations.
"The booklet was published months before Akbar quit as a minister. An unnecessary controversy is being created which is very unfortunate. The booklet only mentions achievements of the ministry," a government official told news agency Press Trust of India.
In the booklet, MJ Akbar also features in the inside pages as part of "Team MEA" alongside External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, MoS General VK Singh and others.
Its distribution at the External Affairs Ministry's top event - 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas - sparked sharp reactions from various quarters on social media.
"Featuring the #MeToo accused as a star? Hasn't he resigned?" Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted in response to a post on the booklet.
Featuring the #MeToo accused as a star? Hasn't he resigned?- Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) January 21, 2019
A number of women journalists also took to social media to criticise MJ Akbar finding a place in the booklet handed out to NRI delegates at the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas in Varanasi.
The theme of the event this year is, "Role of Indian diaspora in building a New India".
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas today in Varanasi, his Lok Sabha constituency, while President Ram Nath Kovind will grace the concluding function on January 23.