Wharton row: Wrong to disinvite Modi, feels Tharoor



Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: After being snubbed by the Wharton University, support for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi seems to be growing and this time it has come from unexpected quarters.

Shashi Tharoor, a Minister in the Congress-led UPA government, has disapproved of Wharton Business School dropping Narendra Modi as a keynote speaker at one of its events.

Calling the decision as unfortunate, Tharoor was quoted as saying, "It is wrong to cancel his keynote address after inviting him. The US institution had a duty to hear the Gujarat Chief Minister after inviting him.”

Striking a different note from Congress, Union Minister, however, balanced his response by saying that he was not speaking on behalf of his party or the government but expressing his "personal view" when pointed out that Congress leaders have been saying otherwise about the incident.

The Minister also said that he was invited to deliver the keynote address six-seven weeks ago but declined it due to his Parliamentary commitments and suggested that Wharton approach someone else who does not have Parliamentary priorities.

"Perhaps that is why they went to a Chief Minister, I don't know," Tharoor said recalling that he had addressed Wharton India Economic Forum four years back and since then was being invited for the same every year but could not go thereafter.

"In fact, I disagree profusely with 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," Tharoor told a TV news channel.

He said that the hosts should have instead asked from Modi questions including the uncomfortable ones and should have challenged some issues in arguments. "That is what makes for a stimulating debate. On an university campus, that is what the entire process should be all about," he said.

The Union Minister at the same time said that the conference is organized by students and perhaps they cancelled it as they felt that they cannot cope with the "trouble" and the "controversy" surrounding their invite to Modi.

"I do not think that it was a considered decision and I suspect that they are regretting both their decisions to invite Modi as also their decision to disinvite him," Tharoor, who is also the Minister of State for HRD, said.

Tharoor said that what he is saying does not mean that he would have recommended them to invite Modi but "once they had invited him, they had an obligation to listen rather than to cave in to the objections of people outside".

He felt that the organizers, who are mainly students adopted the "line of least resistance" of disinviting Modi as they apprehended that there would be demonstrations outside the venue or there will be security implications.

Tharoor, at the same time, praised the Forum saying it was a "big conference".

"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," he said.

The Union Minister said that the line of least resistance is not good as "once you make a decision to invite someone, you should stick to the guns and I think that the kids have learnt the lesson...”

"To invite someone who is known to attract protests...to invite and then to disinvite shows they have not thought through".

Tharoor said he agreed with Wall Street Journal columnist and writer Sadanand Dhume, who also decided not to speak at the Forum as he disapproved of the organisers' decision to disinvite Modi.

Meanwhile, it has now emerged that Modi will now address the Indian diaspora in the states of Edison, New Jersey, Chicago, Illinois in the US through a video conference facility after being dropped by the Wharton Business School as a keynote speaker.

With Agency Inputs