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Gujarat BJP leader calls for Akbar’s ouster

M.J. Akbar must go now. He should be removed from the party, said the BJP's Surat vice-president

By Our Special Correspondent in New Delhi
  • Published 4.11.18, 2:29 AM
  • Updated 4.11.18, 3:05 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Several women have accused MJ Akbar of sexual harassment and a journalist accused him of rape Telegraph file picture

A BJP leader from Narendra Modi’s home state has publicly said that M.J. Akbar “should be removed from the party” after fresh allegations of rape and other forms of sexual misconduct surfaced against the former editor and ex-minister.

Although P.V.S. Sarma, vice-president of the BJP’s Surat city unit, claimed he was airing his personal views, many party insiders said opinion against Akbar was crystallising within the BJP and the wider Sangh parivar after the rape allegation.

Akbar and his wife have denied the rape charges by a US-based journalist and former colleague who levelled the allegation in an article in The Washington Post newspaper.

“M.J. Akbar must go now. He should be removed from the party,” Sarma tweeted on Friday. “M.J. Akbar’s continuance in the party is not tenable after so many women alleged (sic) him of rape, assault and sexual exploitation.”

Akbar had resigned last month as junior foreign minister after several former colleagues accused him of sexual harassment.

Contacted, Sarma said the tweets reflected his “personal” but “well-thought-out” views. Asked whether he was going against the party line, Sarma said: “I don’t think so. Can anybody in the party support him?”

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He added: “I think the party should take the issue very seriously. He (Akbar) should be advised to quit till he is cleared of the charges. He can always come back if he is not found guilty.”

Sarma said that Akbar’s continuance as a party MP would “tarnish the image of the BJP”.

BJP leaders in Delhi refused to speak on record but, in private, agreed that Akbar’s position had become untenable and that the party’s top leadership might feel compelled to ask him to resign as an MP too.

“The women who have levelled serious charges against him appear to be determined. If they remain steadfast and more allegations surface, which seems likely, the party leadership may be forced to act,” a BJP senior said.

He said the party could not afford to go against the sentiments of women, that too so close to the general election.

Reports have said that some of Akbar’s accusers have approached members of the Rajya Sabha ethics committee to lodge a complaint. Akbar was elected to the Upper House from Madhya Pradesh in 2016.

The women are reportedly planning to write to all women Rajya Sabha members, asking them to condemn Akbar and ensure that the ethics committee takes the matter up.

The ethics committee’s mandate is “to oversee the moral and ethical conduct of members”. It can recommend censure, suspension or any other sanction deemed appropriate.