Controversy in Wharton over inviting Narendra Modi as speaker

Controversy in Wharton over inviting Narendra Modi as speaker

(Narendra Modi at Delhi's Shri Ram College of Commerce)

Washington:  Narendra Modi is listed as the first speaker on Wharton India Economic Forum's website, but Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is reportedly having second thoughts about hosting the Gujarat Chief Minister as one of the keynote speakers at the prestigious meet scheduled to be held on March 23 in Philadelphia.

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 sources now say that the management has reservations over his inclusion in the speakers' list and might ask for his name to be dropped.

The management and the students' body at Wharton School are reportedly holding talks over the matter. A decision is expected to be out soon.

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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