Activist and Aam Aadmi party leader Arvind Kejriwal has been invited to address the 17th Wharton India Economic Forum 2013 on 23 March, just a day after Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was dropped from the speakers' list.
Some reports have emerged stating that Kejriwal was invited to replace Modi as a keynote speaker at the forum. There has been no confirmation on this latest development from the Wharton School in Philadelphia, which is organizing the event. But Kejriwal has denied the speculation that he is replacing Modi. "As per my information, I am not replacing anyone. The invitation to me was an independent one," Kejriwal was quoted as saying by ZeeNews.com.
The activist-turned-politician will speak at the event through videoconferencing on 23 March, the day he will begin an indefinite fast to protest against rise in power charges in Delhi. Kejriwal told Firstpost that he will speak at the conference for 15 to 20 minutes from the place where he will stage his hunger strike.
On Monday, the organizing committee of the Wharton India Economic Forum released a statement saying that they are cancelling their invitation to Modi to speak at the forum, following protests from a section of professors and students. They stated that they have cancelled the invitation for fear of "polarizing reactions". "Our team felt that the potential polarizing reactions from sub-segments of the alumni base student body ,and our supporters might put Mr. Modi in a compromising position which we would like to avoid at all costs especially in the spirit of our conference's purpose," the forum said in a statement.
However, Modi has received immense support from at least two panellists - Shiv Sena leader Suresh Prabhu and Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani. Both Prabhu and Adani have cancelled their scheduled speech at the conference, as a mark of protesting against Wharton's decision to cancel their invite to Modi.
The Adani Group is one of the main sponsors of the conference. The company, which is headquartered in Gujarat, has decided to pull out and withdraw their funding for the event. Wharton also confirmed the same, but said that there will be no trouble for the event as they are five other sponsors who are sharing the funds.