New Delhi: Minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar 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.”
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 Akbar would resign or not in the wake of the allegations, particularly as Akbar had not reacted for a few days. The Congress attacked the government on the issue, and said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on the matter was “conspicuous and unacceptable”.
Sources said 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 Akbar were to resign, it would give ammunition to the Opposition ahead of the crucial Assembly polls. Akbar is a Rajya Sabha member belonging to the BJP.
As far as the RSS is concerned, sources said senior RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale’s sharing a Facebook post of a former JNU student on #MeToo was in support of the campaign after questions were raised on the Sangh Parivar’s stand. The Sangh, sources said, is also aware that any action against Akbar would turn into a political issue, which could affect the BJP.
In a statement, 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.”
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 Akbar.
In his statement, Akbar said: “ 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. This was admitted at the very inception. But a sea of innuendo, speculation and abusive diatribe has been built around something that never happened… Some are total, unsubstantiated hearsay; others confirm, on the record, that I didn’t do anything.”
Akbar further said: “Let me note examples. Shutapa Paul states: ‘The man never laid a hand on me’. Shuma Raha says: ‘I must clarify, however, that he didn’t actually do anything’. One woman … went to the absurd extent of claiming I was partying in a swimming pool. I do not know how to swim.”
Replying to the allegations of sexual harassment against him by Ghazala Wahab, Akbar said: “Another accusation was made repeatedly by Ms Ghazala Wahab, in an effort to damage my reputation. She claimed that she had been molested in office, 21 years ago. This is 16 years before I entered public life, and when I was in the media. The only office where I worked with her was that of The Asian Age. A part of the editorial team then worked out of a small hall. At the time concerned, I had a very tiny cubicle, patched together by plywood and glass. Others had tables and chairs two feet away. It is utterly bizarre to believe that anything could have happened in that tiny space, and, moreover, that no one else in the vicinity would come to know, in the midst of a working day. These allegations are false, motivated and baseless.”
“ Wahab states that she complained to Veenu Sandal, who wrote features for the paper. Sandal has described Wahab’s version as nonsense, in an interview to the Indian Express. Ms Sandal has also said she has never heard, in 20 years, anybody accusing me of any such thing.
“It is pertinent to remember that both Ramani and Wahab kept working with me even after these alleged incidents; this clearly establishes that they had no apprehension and discomfort. The reason why they remained silent for decades is very apparent: as Ms Ramani has herself stated, I never did anything. This is the reason why no one went to the authorities for so long, because I had done nothing.”
85 pc loot during Congress regime plugged:PM Modi
Varanasi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday described NRIs as India’s brand ambassadors and said they were the symbols of the country’s capabilities.
The Prime Minister was inaugurating the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas convention in his parliamentary constituency Varanasi. “I consider NRIs India’s brand ambassadors.
They are the symbols of our capacities and capabilities,” he told the gathering.
“People of Indian origin are in leadership roles in countries such as Mauritius, Portugal and Ireland,” he said.
PM Modi also alluded to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s comment that only 15 paise of Re 1 reaches masses and said the Congress government had done nothing to stop the leakage.
The Prime Minister added that his government had stepped in to rectify the situation. The “85 per cent loot” taking place during the Congress regime had been plugged “100 per cent” through technology, he said.
“We have given about Rs 5,80,000 crore to people, transferred to their bank accounts through various schemes. Imagine, if the country was being run on the older system? Then Rs 4,50,000 crore would have vanished,” PM Modi said.
Continuing his attack on the Congress, he said efforts to stop the “leakage” could have been made earlier as well but there was no intention and will power. “Our government is moving towards ensuring that the aid given by government is directly transferred to beneficiary accounts through direct benefit schemes,” he said.
Mauritian Premier Pravind Jugnauth, who is the chief guest for the three-day event, also spoke on the occasion. He hailed the Prime Minister for India’s transformation through initiatives such as the Skill India and the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao schemes. He also praised PM Modi’s global stewardship in promoting clean energy and for setting up the International Solar Alliance.
Jugnauth announced that his country will hold a Bhagwad Gita Mahotsav next month and a Bhojpuri Festival next year.
For the first time, the three-day convention is being organised from January 21 to 23 instead of January 9 to allow participants to visit the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad and attend the Republic Day parade in the national capital.
The theme of this year’s convention is ‘Role of Indian diaspora in building new India’.
‘Madrasas promote ISIS ideology, shut them’: UP Shia board chief to PM Modi
New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board chief Waseem Rizvi on Tuesday said that madrasas promote ISIS ideology.
Rizvi has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to shut Islamic seminaries across India so that Muslim children are not influenced by it.
“If madrasas across the country are not shut down soon then after 15 years half of the Muslims will start favouring the ISIS ideology. It has been observed across the world that ISIS is targeting children and asking them to follow them,” Rizvi wrote in the letter.
The UP Shia Board chief added that Muslim children should study with students of other religions in schools so that they are able to get better education.
The comments are likely to irk several Islamic clerics and scholars.
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Rizvi cited the example of Kashmir to substantiate his point
“In Kashmir, ISIS supports can be seen in huge numbers. In rural areas, Madrasas are destroying the future of our children being run on donations as their owners are hungry for money,” he stated.
Yashwant throws his hat in PM race, calls self ‘closest’ person to deliver on job creation
New Delhi: Former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha threw his hat in the race for prime ministership when he declared himself as the “closest” person who could deliver on job creation, building roads, townships and industries.
Sinha, a former finance minister during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led previous NDA government, also said that Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari would not succeed Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he and BJP chief Amit Shah will “not retire” even if the BJP fell below the 200-seat mark in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The former BJP lawmaker said the problem in the country was non-creation of crores of jobs and millions of kilometres of roads. India needs a leader who can make agriculture profitable and set up irrigation projects, townships and industries, he said.
“We have to do a lot of work in this country… We will have to find somebody who is prepared to buy this theory and start doing it,” he said.
Asked who the person could be, Sinha told a news channel, “There is nobody in my mind.”
Asked who was closest to deliver all this, he said, “The closest is me, myself, what I am,” leading to a laughter in the audience of the event hosted by the channel.
“I am very close behind him,” said CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, seated next to him, when asked if he endorsed Sinha.
Various opposition parties are seeking to unite to put up a united front to defeat the Modi-led BJP in general elections, with the BJP taking a swipe at them saying all are prime ministerial aspirants in the opposition camp.
About speculation on whether Gadkari would succeed Modi, the disgruntled former BJP MP said, “There is no hope in hell for that.”
Sinha said what he is saying is “because I know the kind of vice-like grip the current prime minister and the party president have over the BJP and even after the loss in elections where they could be below 200, they will not retire from their leadership.”
“It is a very fond hope that some media people are nursing that Gadkari might succeed Modi,” he said, negating the possibility.