New Delhi: Minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar on Sunday refused to step down from his post and denied allegations of sexual harassment levelled against him by several women.
Hours after returning to New Delhi on Sunday morning after an official visit to Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, he termed these as “viral fever”, saying that they were “false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice”, adding that he would be “taking appropriate legal action”.
He further said, “Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison, which can be whipped into a frenzy.”
Mr Akbar added, “A sea of innuendo, speculation and abusive diatribe has been built around something that never happened.”
Implying a political motive behind the allegations, he wondered why the “storm” had risen a few months before the elections. There had been considerable speculation over the past few days whether Mr Akbar would resign or not in the wake of the allegations, particularly as Mr Akbar had not reacted for a few days.
Sources said Mr Akbar’s decision to not resign was taken after consulting the top BJP leadership and after he explained his side of the story on the sexual misconduct allegations levelled against him. There was a growing feeling within the BJP that the #MeToo campaign was turning into an effort to malign the party and if Mr Akbar were to resign, it would have give ammunition to the Opposition ahead of the crucial polls. Mr Akbar is a Rajya Sabha member belonging to the BJP.
In a statement, Mr Akbar said: “The allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice. I could not reply earlier as I was on an official tour abroad. Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections. Whatever be the case, now that I have returned, my lawyers will look into these wild and baseless allegations in order to decide our future course of legal action.”
Mr Akbar added: “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. Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison, which can be whipped into a frenzy. This is deeply distressing. As indicated above, I will be taking appropriate legal action.”
Several women journalists, including Ghazala Wahab, Priya Ramani, Shutapa Paul and Shuma Raha, had made allegations of sexual harassment against Mr Akbar.
In his statement, Mr Akbar said: “Ms Priya Ramani ... did not however name me ... When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a tweet: ‘Never named him because he didn’t ‘do anything’. If I didn’t do anything, where and what is the story? There is no story.”...