Nagpur: Union minister Ramdas Athawale Wednesday welcomed the resignation tendered by his Cabinet colleague and former journalist M J Akbar who is facing allegations of sexual harassment from several women scribes.
The Minister of State for Social Justice also said the law will take its own course if Akbar, the Minister of State for External Affairs, was found guilty "in an enquiry".
He also said that the charges against Akbar should be thoroughly probed. "It is a good decision that he (Akbar) has tendered his resignation. Whether he is guilty or not will come out after the enquiry is completed, and if found guilty the law will take its own course," Athawale told reporters at a press conference here.
"The allegations levelled against him should be properly investigated," he added. The 67-year-old journalist turned politician quit Wednesday, a day ahead of hearing of a criminal defamation complaint filed by him against Priya Ramani, a journalist who has accused him of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago.
While addressing the presser, Athawale said his party, Republican Party of India (Athawale) would put forward the demand for carving out separate Vidarbha state in an upcoming meeting of the constituents of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The demand for separating Vidarbha-- a region in east Maharashtra with 11 districts-- from Maharashtra has been raised for the last many years by its proponents who claim the region has remained backward despite having a huge potential.
"I believe the Modi government and the NDA will think about formation of Vidarbha after coming to power again in 2019. The RPI (A) will put the demand for separate Vidarbha before the government in the upcoming meeting of the NDA," he said.
Athawale also demanded that prices of petrol and diesel be slashed. "In the upcoming meeting of the NDA, we will request the government to bring petrol and diesel under the ambit of GST (Goods and Services Tax)," he said.
Responding to a query on electoral alliances, the Dalit leader from Maharashtra said the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) should contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections together.
Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena is a constituent of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra. Thackeray had earlier announced that his party would go solo in upcoming elections. However, the BJP is hopeful of forging a tie-up with the oldest NDA ally.
"Irrespective of the tie-up between the Sena and the BJP, the RPI (A) will contest Lok Sabha elections with the BJP and will try to win at least 30 seats together," he said.
Maharashtra sends 48 MPs to Lok Sabha, the second largest chunk after Uttar Pradesh (80). Athawale also proposed a rotational chief ministership between the Sena and the BJP.
"If the Sena wants to install its chief minister, then that party and the BJP should contest the next year's general and state assembly polls together. They can devise a formula under which both the parties can install their respective candidate as the chief minister for a period of 2.5 years each," he said.
Athawale also proposed that the party, either Sena or BJP, which wins maximum number of seats in assembly polls, due in October next year, can have its chief minister for the fullest term of five years.
"Similarly, the party which emerges second can install its candidate as a deputy chief minister for the five year term," he added. Athawale said he would put this formula before chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Sena chief for consideration....