History will record that in both his avatars, Mobashar Jawed Akbar ended up damaging Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ilk. As editor and author he was the copybook secularist – a man who could take on the saffron establishment and Muslim fanaticism.
Yet, Akbar was also pragmatic. He realised early that being the poster boy of fading secularism must be politically leveraged for gain and transition.
He wormed his way into the charmed circle of the Rajiv Gandhi establishment as it battled corruption charges and set up an aborted mouth-watering electoral clash in the 1989 Lok Sabha polls with Syed Shahabuddin, the then champion of Muslim conservatism from minority-dominated Kishanganj, Bihar.
The contest eventually took place in 1991, but Akbar failed to get re-elected and was soon back in journalism.
In his years in the media, he was a trenchant critic of the sangh parivar and of Modi when he emerged on centre stage.
A column (paradoxically still available in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn's website) he wrote for Asian Age – the stage of his alleged predatory behaviour and a paper he founded – was as sharp in criticism as the majority of Indian media then was.
In the 12 years before he joined the BJP and offered a contrite explanation in an article for Economic Times for why he opted to do so, Akbar was considered by the sangh parivar among the core members of the ‘sickularists’ or pseudo-secularists.
Yet, the BJP took Akbar on board and immediately made him party spokesperson simply because he was a convenient stick to beat the Congress with – a hardcore Muslim secular-dynasty-loyalist.
Yet, Akbar's past and post-being-outed behaviour has done enormous damage to Modi and his party. Ironically, the baggage of the former editor and now also ex-minister, has caused possibly one of the worst setbacks in the run up to 2019 because of the BJP's inability to respond to the crisis as promptly as it should have.
#MeTooIndia is not, and never was, just about Akbar. Yet, he became its focus because of being indisputably the most highly placed person accused of being a sexual prowler. He operated in the terrain where the odds were stacked in his favour because he controlled professional futures of the women he targeted.
However, once Akbar came under the spotlight, the spotlight was no longer on him personally. Rather, it was on the reaction of the BJP, and on Modi specifically.
It was somewhat understandable for the prime minister and the party to wait – at least, while he was out of India – given the national prestige and international commitments at stake.
But under what wisdom did the party allow Akbar to issue his obnoxious statement on Sunday? Surely, the party must have had a mechanism to vet what he would state in his written note wherein he claimed all allegations were "false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice."
By the time Akbar returned to the country, there had been a groundswell of sentiment against him, not just within the BJP and the government, but also in the RSS. The testimonies of Smriti Irani and Dattatreya Hosable are to this effect.
However, disregarding this sentiment, Modi and his coterie, mainly people instrumental in Akbar's induction in BJP in 2014 and his eventual appointment to the council of ministers, thought they would brazen out the charges by adopting a two-pronged strategy.
Firstly, by labelling women journalists who have come out as part of the tukde-tukde/urban Naxals/anti-nationals gang.
And secondly, but more importantly – in a tactic which epitomises this regime's brazenness when it comes to browbeating law-abiding professionals and citizens – it decided to allow the selective targeting and suing of Priya Ramani after enlisting a battery of lawyers from a high-profile law firm with known proximity to key individuals in this regime.
The aim was obviously to obfuscate the fact that #MeTooIndia and #MeToo movements are based on the exploitative characteristics of men in powerful positions. Instead, it was clubbed alongside protests on other issues.
But more importantly, Ramani was singled out in the hope that the harassment and high costs the defence would entail, would scare the other women who had come out and silence several others who were weighing options on following suit.
The women did not chicken out, and more numbers were added to their ranks. They also announced the formation of a collective that would issue joint testimonies in the case against Ramani. As a result, the government has buckled and Akbar made a sheepish exit with his past in tatters and future bleak.
The women journalists were initially shamed as being little more than Twitter warriors, but they have indeed set the agenda and forced the BJP to press the panic button. Akbar's exit happened despite the sluggishness of almost all opposition parties.
The BJP has been forced to eat humble pie and will try to convince people that the party itself forced Akbar's exit. But it will be seen as too little and too late.
The American economist Murray Rothbard is quoted as saying, "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves." Women journalists have forced the BJP to realise the power of the powerless. The BJP will continue to pay lip service to its own lofty pronouncements at immense cost.
(The writer is a Delhi-based author and journalist. He authored ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times’ and ‘Sikhs: The Untold Agony of 1984’. He can be reached @NilanjanUdwin. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)