The Congress on Wednesday said Union Minister M J Akbar must either offer a satisfactory explanation of the allegations of sexual harassment against him or resign immediately, even as it demanded an inquiry into his conduct.
The opposition party also hit out at External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for not responding to a question on action against her junior minister after allegations were levelled against him, terming it "extremely unfortunate".
As the #MeToo campaign gathered momentum in India, some women journalists have come out and accused Akbar, a former editor and now the minister of state for external affairs, of sexually harassing them during his stint as a journalist. Akbar was an editor of many publications before he took to politics.
Congress spokesperson S Jaipal Reddy said in a press conference that, "I think Mr M J Akbar must either offer a satisfactory explanation or must resign forthwith. How can he be in the Ministry with this serious allegation being levelled against him by a responsible journalist who worked with him?"
"Let there be an inquiry into this. We demand an inquiry in Shri M J Akbar's conduct," he said.
"If Justice Kavanaugh in America could be asked to answer for something he did in his youth, Shri M J Akbar did whatever he did much later in his life than his counterpart in America," he said.
Reddy also questioned External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's silence on the issue.
"Mrs Sushma Swaraj's silence is guilty of two counts; firstly - she is evading responsibility with regard to the blow delivered at women. Secondly, she is not prepared to comment on her own subordinate, Mr M J Akbar," Reddy said.
The Congress leader said Akbar has his own stature as a veteran journalist in addition to being Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
Party spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said women of the country are coming forward and speaking about the sexual predatory habits of people who are working amongst them.
She said they have gathered enough courage to become a force loud enough for people to stand up, take notice and expect changes to happen.
"I would have hoped that every woman, cutting across political party lines, would speak up for all the women who have been wronged over the years and who did not have enough courage to speak up because they feared for their own careers and their future job prospects.
"It is extremely unfortunate that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who many women in this country look up to and is a source of inspiration for many women, has chosen to stay quiet on these serious allegations," she said.
Chaturvedi said as far as allegations against Akbar are concerned, "we are very clear that the person who has been accused should come forward and explain, through a statement or through an interview about these allegations".
She said these allegations are not coming from anonymous handles, but from extremely successful women who have made a mark for themselves in journalism. "So, it has to be clarified by the accused".
Training her guns at the government, she said, "It also raises questions and points a finger at the government of the day which speaks about women empowerment and women safety but maintains a studious silence on the entire facts that are emerging".
She hit out at the BJP, claiming she has read reports that BJP spokespersons have been asked not to comment on it.
"Isn't it shameful that today when all the women of the country are speaking up, you have a government, which spoke about many women related campaigns, the Prime Minister speaking from the Red Fort for the women of this country, refuses to speak up or stand up for its women," she said.
Asked about BJP MP Udit Raj's remarks that there were cases where women took money to level charges, she said, "It is a shameless comment coming from an elected representative of the Bharatiya Janata Party and considering that Bharatiya Janata Party has not taken cognizance of what he has spoken, we believe they endorse this anti-women mindset of Udit Raj."
"Shameless, contempt worthy and should be condemned and I would hope that all the men also would be part of this 'Me Too' and add their voices by becoming 'You Too' and ask for an apology from Udit Raj for all the women of this country," she said.
(With inputs from agencies.)