A senior cabinet minister has spoken to journalist-turned-politician and junior minister for external affairs, MJ Akbar, about the sexual harassment allegations against him by several women journalists.
Sources privy to the developments told CNBC-TV18 that the cabinet minister dialled Akbar soon after the allegations surfaced on Twitter. Akbar is on an official tour to Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea and is said to return on Sunday as per schedule.
Government sources have refuted reports that the minister was asked to cut short his foreign tour in light of this controversy.
Akbar’s boss and the union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is participating in the two-day 17th Council of Heads of Government (CHG) meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Dushanbe, Tajikistan and is likely to return on Friday night.
This week, journalists had asked the foreign minister about the allegations against the junior minister, but she refused to comment on the issue.
People familiar with the matter said Akbar is likely to be asked to resign on his return and his position has become untenable in light of the allegations. However, cutting short his foreign tour would be inappropriate as he is on an official tour for high level meetings.
The BJP’s ideological mentor, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has also made its stand loud and clear. “The Sangh has taken a very serious view on this. This is a very sensitive issue. There should be no compromise with a woman’s respect and safety," according to multiple people familiar with the development.
So far neither the BJP nor the centre have taken an official view on the allegations. Senior ministers like Nirmala Sitharaman and Smriti Irani have come out in support of women speaking out, but it’s is for the victims concerned to respond. But BJP seems to be divided on the issue as some leaders feel that MoS should step down and another section want him to stay back as allegations against him date back to his tenure as a journalist and there is no evidence of wrongdoing during his term as minister.
All matters brought to Network18’s attention which are within the purview of the workplace have been forwarded to our Internal Committee for Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the workplace for appropriate action. The Internal Committee is independent and all recommendations made by it are followed through by Management action.
Network18 Group has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. The company complies fully with all legal provisions and seeks to ensure a speedy and effective Redressal on complaints.