Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has found unexpected support over Wharton business school’s decision to scrap his address to students following protests – from union minister Shashi Tharoor, who was mocked publicly by Modi in the past.
The University of Pennsylvania business school should have allowed Modi to speak, minister of state for human resource development (HRD) Tharoor said. He is the first Congress leader to back the Gujarat CM on the issue.
“I disagree profoundly 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,” Tharoor told a television channel. “Once they had invited him, they had a duty to hear his point of view.”
The Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF) – an annual platform that invites key Indian and American leaders – had invited Modi to address varsity students at its conclave on March 23 in Philadelphia. Modi, whose visa was revoked in 2005 by the US State Department, was to speak via a live videoconference.
But after three Indian American professors at the University of Pennsylvania petitioned the university leadership and Wharton administration, the invitation to Modi was withdrawn on Sunday.
The organisers should have allowed the audience to question and even challenge Modi, instead of cancelling his address, Tharoor said. “That is what makes for a stimulating debate. On a university campus, that is what the entire process should be all about,” he said. Tharoor had himself spoken at the WIEF four years ago.
The minister’s comments came just three months after Modi mocked him publicly. Speaking at a rally, Modi referred to Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar – who was in the midst of a controversy in 2009 over alleged stakes in an IPL team the minister was supporting – as a “Rs 50-cr girlfriend.”