New Delhi: A day after cancelling the keynote address by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, reports emerged on Tuesday that Wharton University has now invited Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal to address the Wharton India Economic Forum on March 23 in Philadelphia.
The Wharton University cancelled the Narendra Modi’s keynote address citing fears of "polarising reactions".
Though confusion still prevails as to who will replace Modi, the University sources said that Kejriwal should not be seen as a replacement for the Gujarat Chief Minister and the AAP convenor will address the forum via video-conferencing but not as a keynote speaker.
An official announcement in this regard is yet to be made by the US University.
While there was speculation about Kejriwal being Modi’s replacement, the activist denied it saying, “As per my information, I am not replacing anyone. The invitation to me was an independent one. ”
However, after being snubbed by the US University, the firebrand Gujarat Chief Minister has found immense support from the BJP’s ally Shiv Sena and shipping magnate Gautam Adani.
While the BJP slammed US`s "double standards", Wharton professors maintained that their stand against Modi is based on facts and human rights records in Gujarat.
In a bid to mark their protest against the cancellation of Modi`s address, Shiv Sena leader Suresh Prabhu and Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani also canceled their scheduled addresses at the prestigious forum.
Suresh Prabhu, who is a member of the India Economic Forum at Wharton, said he considers the university`s U-turn on Modi an insult to the country.
"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.
On the reason for cancelling the Wharton visit, Prabhu said, "I have been a regular speaker at colleges and universities all over the world, be it in the US, Japan, Singapore or the Middle East...I find this (Wharton snub to Modi) a ridiculous decision. Modi did not ask that he be invited. He is a democratically-elected leader, a three-term CM. Modi is not someone who has been hoisted on somebody. He has been elected as representative of people in fairly conducted polls by the Election Commission".
"The university should be a place where divergent views are debated. Such a decision, that too by a varsity in the US, is unfathomable," he said.
"Gujarat is a leading developed and industrialised state in the country. All businessmen, be it Tata, Ambani or global business leaders, are coming to Gujarat," Prabhu said.
Later, Adani Group, however, said its chairman Gautam Adani had decided to pull out of Wharton India Economic Forum almost a fortnight back, in an apparent reference that his absence is not related to the cancellation of Modi`s address.
"Adani has conveyed his inability to join Wharton India Economic Forum long back (almost a fortnight ago) as he has other pressing commitments," an Adani Group spokesperson said.
Modi`s address at the prestigious Wharton India Economic Forum later this month was cancelled on Sunday under pressure from multiple stakeholders.
"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," the Forum had said in a statement on Sunday.
Modi was invited to deliver the keynote address at the Forum to be held in Philadelphia on March 22-23 via videoconference.
The Forum is an annual student-run India-centric conference hosted by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
A group of Wharton`s professors and students had written a strongly-worded letter saying they are outraged to learn that the Forum has invited Modi as a keynote speaker.
Since its inception in 1996, the meet 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.
Earlier keynote speakers have included former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, BJP leader Varun Gandhi and industrialist Anil Ambani.
With Agency inputs