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MJ Akbar issue may be a deadly blow for BJP

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Just ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was looking invincible as if it couldn’t do anything wrong. Cut to 2018, the situation has made a somersault and it looks it cannot do anything right.  One after another, allegations are coming thick and fast. The muck that it has on its face is hard to wipe off. If the disclosure on the Rafale deal is being debated beyond prime time, junior minister Mobashar Jawed Akbar’s (MJ Akbar) name is called out for sexual harassment during #MeToo movement, seems to have taken the country by storm and is beyond repair.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who unilaterally picked Akbar for the Minister of State for External Affairs’ portfolio, hasn’t spoken a word on the issue as yet. Though ministers like Maneka Gandhi, Smriti Irani and party president Amit Shah have offered statements, nothing came out of it as they deliberately bypassed the issue in totality.

Akbar though has put up a brave front after returning from his African sojourn, still the cast of aspersions is there. Threatening to take legal action against the complainants, Akbar has made it more complicated for his party. The party now has two options.

First, they can straightaway sack the minister, which will have its repercussion ahead of the Assembly polls in five states, particularly Madhya Pradesh from where Akbar is a Rajya Sabha member. Snatching the ministry from him would almost prove the charges against him and that may have an impact on the state polls.

Secondly, the BJP may brush aside the allegations on the junior minister which will again put the party in bad light, considering the fact that PM Narendra Modi has a much publicised Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign. Also, a brazen denial from the party, as Akbar did on Sunday, would cast aspersions on the saffron brigade’s take on such a serious issue ahead of the elections and the opposition is waiting for the most opportune moment to strike back.

“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 said on return from Nigeria.

Scoffing off the allegations the former journalist questioned the timeliness of the accusations. “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. I will be taking appropriate legal action,” he said in a fragile attempt to douse the current fire.

Now, questions are raised in plenty. And more importantly, the party needs to have a take on this, as its deafening silence on the matter will mean it is not ready to act on complaints against its leaders even if they are at fault. The stance could make the BJP pay a heavy price in the Assembly elections.

However, it’s been like that for more than four years as BJP neither commented nor acted against its lawmakers or leaders for any slip ups or outrageous statements. On the contrary, it looked comfortable in stirring up issues that relate to religion or are not for the best interest of the public.

For example the ‘gau mata’ issue may have satisfied the Hindutva hunger, but didn’t make sense in the national parlance per-se. The rechristening of Mughalsarai station to Deendayal Upadhyay Junction also may have fetched few votes and lost more. The saffron brigade’s apathy towards the Mughals defying history is something that didn’t go down well with the educated class.

Now this violence on women may be the last nail in the coffin for the party. If the problem was hovering around Babur and his Mughal emperors, it seems to have narrowed down to Akbar. Let see how it deals with the challenge.

ALSO READ: Congress ups the ante, seeks MJ Akbar’s resignation