New Delhi: After cancelling Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's keynote address at its India Business Forum, Wharton has now chosen Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal for its summit. Kejriwal will address the forum on March 23 via videoconference. Meanwhile, the Adani Group withdrew its sponsorship from the programme hours after Modi's address was cancelled. A statement issued by event organising team of Wharton said that the Adani Group would no longer be a "platinum sponsor of the programme. There are five other sponsors sharing the costs".
Wharton's decision to cancel Modi's address also led Shiv Sena leader Suresh Prabhu opting out of the programme. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) downplayed cancellation of the invite from Wharton to Modi, saying he does not need a certificate from any international body.
Wharton took this decision in the wake of opposition to Modi - who has drawn flak for his alleged role in allowing the 2002 post-Godhra riots - from some of its students and university professors. Modi was to deliver his address on 22-23 March via video-conference. Three Indian-American professors from the University of Pennsylvania had sent a petition to Wharton signed by about 135 people "furious" against the invitation to Modi.
Prabhu, who was invited to speak at the same programme, termed this decision "ridiculous" and announced that he will not attend as a mark of protest. "It was Wharton which invited him. Modi did not ask that he be invited. And if you are calling off the invite, I think it is not only an insult of the Gujarat chief minister but of the entire country," Prabhu said.
The Shiv Sena leader maintained that Modi is a democratically elected leader and a "three-term chief minister". The Adani Group, which has a big presence in Gujarat and is reportedly close to Modi, promptly withdrew its sponsorship of the Wharton India Economic Forum, which is organising the programme.
BJP was dismissive of the cancellation of Modi's invitation. "It is Modi's acceptance in India that matters. He needs no certificate from any international forum. He had not filed an application to speak at Wharton. They had invited him. Let them keep it," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters in reply to a question.
With additional information from PTI