New Delhi: From his days of being an iconic editor to the alleged sexual predator — the fall of M.J. Akbar has been sudden and steep.
Caught as he was in the web of #MeToo allegations, Akbar stepped down as India’s Minister of State for External Affairs on Wednesday.
In his chequered career, Akbar was spokesperson for both the Congress and BJP. Highly regarded for his journalistic abilities, Akbar was founder-editor of weekly magazine Sunday and The Telegraph and The Asian Age newspapers.
He commanded respect of generations of aspiring and budding journalists for his erudition, his command and crispness of language, his play of words as also his articulation. Akbar became Editor of Sunday, which turned into a successful news magazine in 1976, and of The Telegraph 1982.
All that changed as allegations started pouring in against him in the wake of #MeToo campaign alleging sexual harassment and molestation by women who had worked with him.
He joined the Congress and was a member of of the ninth Lok Sabha from 1989 to 1991. From 1991 to 1993, he was Advisor to the Human Resource Development Ministry.
He returned to journalism with an aim of creating a newspaper with an international focus. He launched The Asian Age in 1994 with editions in Delhi, Mumbai and London, the first Indian newspaper to have an international edition.
In his long journalistic career, he was also associated with The Sunday Guardian and India Today magazine.
Akbar joined the BJP ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha elections expressing his faith in the leadership of Narendra Modi. He was first elected to Rajya Sabha in July 2015 and was re-elected in July 2016.
Akbar has authored 10 books including India: The Siege Within; Riot after Riot: Reports on Caste and Communal Violence in India; Nehru: The Making of India,1989 and Kashmir: Behind the Vale.
Akbar’s columns were widely followed and he continued writing till he became a minister in the BJP-led government in 2016.
He was given the portfolio of Minister of State for External Affairs in an apparent bid to increase Narendra Modi government’s outreach, especially to the Muslim countries.
Women, who had worked with him came up with their accounts of travails one after another in the social media.
Akbar, who was abroad when the allegations first surfaced about 10 days back, termed them as “wild, baseless and false” on his return. He also filed a defamation case against the journalist who had first levelled the charges, but the accounts against him continued to pour in.
Journalists, individually and also through their representative organisations, expressed their dismay over his decision not to quit.
The government also gave signal that Akbar has to fight his battles individually as the complaints pertained to the period when he was editor.