Wharton Facelift for Modi Nulled Via Facebook
Gujarat-based Adani Group appears to have withdrawn its sponsorship of a student-run
conference hosted by the high-ranking Wharton business school at the University of
Pennsylvania after the event organisers revoked a scheduled keynote address by
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The Adani Group was listed as “platinum sponsor” on the event’s website through Monday, a day after the Wharton India Economic Forum announced it was cancelling Modi’s address. The event was also branded as “presented by Adani”.
Late on Monday, India time, the group’s logo had disappeared
fromthesite.An Adani Group spokesperson declined comment and the event organisers
did not respond to emails. Adani Group chief Gautam Adani has also cancelled
his participation at the event scheduled for March 23. His office, however,
clarified that he had cancelled a fortnight ago “due to other pressing
commitments”. Shiv Sena leader Suresh Prabhu,who was scheduled to speak at the event,
also cancelled his participation, protesting the “insult” to Modi. According to
some TV news channels, Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Admi Party would replace Modi.
The BJP said Modi needed endorsement only from the people of India. “He
needs the certificate of the people of India. In a democracy, that’s all that
matters,” party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
Petition Put Together on Thu “It does not matter what a lobby in the US is doing. They called and they turned him down… My best wishes to them,” Hussain said.
Modi’s Wharton speech through live videoconference was supposed to be the next frontier after his February speech at Delhi’s Shri Ram College of Commerce. But it has now deteriorated into an ugly row just as the BJP meet in Delhi, seen as a key milestone for Modi, concluded.
SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN
It was a Facebook petition,
drafted a day before spring break began at the University of Pennsylvania,
circulated by email and signed mostly by US-based academics, which led the
student-run Wharton India Economic Forum to cancel the invite to Modi. The
Wharton India Economic Forum has been organised every year since 1996, according
to the event’s website. On February 28, it was announced that Modi would deliver
the keynote address at the event. But two days later, the organisers put out a
hurried note saying they were cancelling Modi’s address. “…as a responsible
student body within the University of Pennsylvania, we must consider the impact
on multiple stakeholders in our ecosystem,” the note said.
The decision by the conference seems to have been a result of intervention by the university
officials who were petitioned by the larger academic community. Other sponsors
of the event include Deutsche Bank, Colors TV, Hexaware Technologies and
Incredible India, the initiative run by the tourism ministry.
Toorjo Ghose, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the
organisers of the petition, said he and a small group of like-minded colleagues put
together the document on Thursday after learning about Wharton’s invitation to
Modi. Kasturi Sen, an alumna of the University of Pennsylvania Law School,
created a group on Facebook and hosted the petition. The group gained 1,000
members and over 150 academics and students signed the petition. It was then
forwarded to the dean of Wharton, the president of the University of
Pennsylvania, Amy Gutmann, the Wharton India Economic Forum, and the Daily
Pennsylvanian, the university’s student newspaper.
The petition warned of
protests if the event went ahead with the Modi address. Ghose said he believes
the university officials had taken note of the petition and intervened. “This
was the only organised protest that was expressed. We were surprised by the
momentum it gathered within a day. We continue to have people writing in from
all over the world. We didn’t expect much action because spring break was
beginning and nobody is really around. But the university took note of the
concerns and acted promptly. And for this, I’m proud of my institution.”