#MeToo: Inside story of MJ Akbar’s resignation

Sources say that a senior government minister had given a ‘briefing’ in the matter to some of the news channels before news of MJ Akbar’s resignation came to light on Sunday

PTI Photo
PTI Photo
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S Khurram Raza

The decision which should have been taken much before was finally taken on Wednesday. Senior journalist and Minister of State for External Affairs resigned finally on Wednesday. At least 24 women had accused Akbar of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct during the #MeToo campaign. Akbar's resignation is being seen as the success of this campaign.

When MJ Akbar returned to India on Sunday from his official Nigeria tour, one or two news channels gave the news of his resignation, but by evening the information came that he has not resigned. MJ Akbar issued a statement saying that he will take legal action against women accused in this case. On Monday, MJ Akbar filed a criminal defamation case in Patiala House Court in Delhi against Priya Ramani, the first woman journalist to have accused him of sexual harassment.

Then what led to his resignation?

According to the sources, in the inner circles of the government people had started discussing the issue before Akbar returned from Nigeria. The gains and loss for the party on this issue in the upcoming Assembly elections in 5 states and the next Lok Sabha elections were also assessed.

But all these discussions arrived at no concrete conclusion. This was the reason that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj maintained a stoic silence when she was asked a question related to MJ Akbar. But two women ministers of the Modi government had clearly expressed their reaction on this. Smriti Irani said that she supports the women, but only the person (MJ Akbar) who is being accused can give a reaction on this issue. While Women Welfare and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had even proposed setting up a committee of judges on this issue.

Sources say that a senior government minister had given a ‘briefing’ in the matter to some of the news channels before news of MJ Akbar's resignation came to light on Sunday. When this news spread in the entire media circle, Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra was immediately summoned to the PMO and was asked for the details on this issue. After this meeting, the denial of the news of the minister’s resignation was issued. Also with Akbar's statement it was also announced that he will go to court in this matter.

The strategy was that Akbar’s approaching the court may put #MeToo movement under pressure and it may subsequently subside. But the exact opposite of it happened. More women came forward with the allegations of sexual harassment on the minister. The video in which Sambit Patra, the BJP spokesperson who has been appointed as the director in ONGC, literally remained quiet and avoided the question and ran proved to be a final nail in the coffin.

After this, the Prime Minister held consultations with some ministers and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. On Tuesday Ajit Doval was sent to MJ Akbar to convey the message of the Prime Minister. It was decided that his resignation be announced before the first hearing of the case filed by Akbar. And the same happened on Wednesday afternoon. In the statement issued by Akbar about the resignation, he wrote that, “Since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, also in a personal capacity.”

Sources say that Akbar resignation was not for him to decide. Akbar has been a prominent journalist. He knew what might happen if he did not resign. Even then, he did not resign after returning from Nigeria. Probably it was not what he might have wanted. This shows that Akbar had no role in this decision.

There is every possibility that the ministers of the Modi government will now scream their lungs out as to how the Prime Minister forced him to resign.

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