Wharton should have heard Modi: Tharoor

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 06, 2013 06:42 hrs

New Delhi: Union Minister of State for Human Resource and Development Shashi Tharoor has said that having invited Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the key-note speaker, the Wharton Business School should have heard his point of view.

"I disagree profusely with Mr Modi at every level but I think it is far better to debate his record and views rather than to try and suppress his voice by disinviting him. Once they had invited him, they had a duty to hear his point of view. They should have asked him questions including uncomfortable ones," Tharoor told NDTV.

Tharoor said he was invited to deliver the keynote address but refused it due to his Parliamentary commitments.

"This was an invitation sent six-seven weeks ago to be the key-note speaker. I had declined saying that this would clash with my commitments in the Parliament," Tharoor said.

Speaking on the issue of Modi, he said: "I don't think this was a considerate decision. I suspect they are regretting both their decision to invite and disinvite him."

"My own feeling is that they just did not want the bother. They got so much of heat. They said...we cannot cope with this trouble. Let us get ourselves out of it," Tharoor said.

Disapproving the student's union decision, he said,"Once they had invited him, they had an obligation to listen, rather than claiming to the objections outside."

In his view, the security issues or the problems as well as the protest demonstrations that Modi invites should have been considered before inviting him to speak.

Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal, has been selected as another speaker via video conference in the same event at India Economic Forum hosted by the Wharton Business School.

"Mr Modi's cancellation has nothing to do with my address," said Kejriwal on Tuesday.

Kejriwal said is among the panelists on day two of the 17th Wharton India Economic Forum and he would speak on public policy.

Earlier on Monday, the Adani Group had withdrawn its sponsorship of the event after the U.S. institution cancelled Modi's keynote speech.

The move was seen as an apparent show of loyalty to Modi who rules the state where the conglomerate is headquartered.

Wharton confirmed that the Adani Group had decided it would no longer be a "platinum sponsor".

Shiv Sena leader Suresh Prabhu on Monday also decided to cancel his address at the Wharton Indian Economic Forum following the decision taken by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to cancel a keynote address by the Gujarat Chief Minister.

"Wharton's move is an insult to India," Prabhu said.

The Shiv Sena leader is a member of the India Economic Forum at Wharton.

Pertinently, Shiv Sena is a key ally of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Criticising the decision taken by the institution, Kiran Majumdar Shaw, chairman and managing director of Biocon, tweeted,"Wharton India Forum: No blow to Modi but a blot on Indian student organisers - most unprofessional for not being aligned."

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania had cancelled a keynote address by Modi following an outrage by a group of professors and students over the Indian leader's political past.

The organisers said in a statement that while they stood by the decision to invite Modi, adverse reactions from among the stakeholders involved had prompted the decision.

"Our team felt that the potential polarising reactions from sub-segments of the alumni base, student body and our supporters might put Mr Modi in a compromising position, which we would like to avoid at all costs," the statement said.

"We do not endorse any political views and do not support any specific ideology. Our goal as a team is only to stimulate valuable dialogue on India's growth story," it said.

Modi was chosen to deliver a keynote address via video conferencing at the Wharton's "India Economic Forum", the annual student-run conference hosted by the Wharton School.

The school's website had featured Modi along with Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and industrialists like Gautam Adani.

However, a group of Wharton's professors and students wrote a strongly-worded letter saying they were outraged to learn that Modi had been invited as a speaker.

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