After outrage, will Wharton rethink inviting Narendra Modi as speaker?

After outrage, will Wharton rethink inviting Narendra Modi as speaker?

File picture of Narendra Modi

New Delhi:  Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has landed in a fresh controversy, just weeks after he faced protests while delivering his speech at Delhi's Sri Ram College for Commerce.

Sources have told NDTV that the management of Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, a top US business school, is concerned about having Mr Modi as a keynote speaker at an India economic forum meet in Philadelphia on March 23.

The BJP leader was approached by the Wharton School's students' body which organises the forum and he had agreed to deliver a key note address at the meet through video conference. But the Wharton management has apparently decided to step in and may ask for Mr Modi to be dropped from the list of speakers.

A group of Wharton's professors and students as well as others have written a strongly-worded letter saying they are outraged to learn that the Wharton Economic Forum has invited Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, to be a keynote speaker at its 17th Economic Forum on March 23, 2013.

The letter reads: "This is the same politician who was refused a diplomatic visa by the United States State Department on March 18, 2005 on the ground that he, as Chief Minister, did nothing to prevent a series of orchestrated riots that targeted Muslims in Gujarat."

Wharton India Economic Forum is an annual student-run India-centric conference hosted by the Wharton School. The speakers for the meeting are usually chosen by the students' body. Sources say this is the first time the administration has intervened in their decision.

A student from the group of organisers told NDTV that they invited Mr Modi because they were impressed with Gujarat's growth story.

Last month, the Gujarat Chief Minister had faced protests while delivering a speech at Delhi's prestigious Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC). As he addressed an audience of 1800 students inside the college, a group of students raised slogans and protested against him outside saying the invitation to him overlooked the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 in which 1200 people were killed while he was in office. The police had to use water cannons and canes to control the protests. Mr Modi was picked by SRCC students over other potential speakers in an internal poll.

Since its inception 16 years ago, Wharton India Economic Forum has emerged as one of the largest and most prestigious India-focused business conferences that provides a platform for leaders to discuss the opportunities present in India and the challenges that need to be addressed.

Among other eminent guests invited for the day-long forum this year are Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Union Minister of State for IT and Communications Milind Deora, chairman of the Adani Group Gautam Adani, actress Shabana Azmi and poet and scriptwriter Javed Akhtar.

Earlier, keynote speakers have included former president Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, BJP leader Varun Gandhi and industrialist Anil Ambani.

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