Shiv Sena leader Suresh Prabhu on Monday said he has cancelled his visit to Wharton "as a mark of protest" against the cancellation of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's keynote address at the Wharton India Economic Forum.
"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," he said.
"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.
Asked if he had spoken to Modi and conveyed his decision to call off his Wharton visit as a mark of protest, Prabhu said, "I have so far not spoken to Modi."
Meanwhile, Gautam Adani, chairman of Gujarat-headquartered Adani group, has also opted out of the event. The Adani Group is one of the main sponsors of the conference hosted by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Both Adani and Modi are reported to have close ties with Aam Aadmi Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal having in the past also accused Modi of having favoured the state-based business house on power purchase and land allotment besides giving gas fields worth Rs 20,000 crore to private company for "free".
The firm has claimed that Adani's withdrawal from the event was not linked to Modi being snubbed by the organisers.
"Mr Adani had conveyed his inability to join Wharton India Economic Forum long back as he has other pressing commitments," a group spokesperson said in Ahmedabad on Monday.
"Our participation at the event is just by way of sponsorship," he said.
The Wharton School forum cancelled Modi's address, saying it fears polarising reactions if Modi is invited, after a group of professors and students there had protested over his invitation.
Modi was scheduled to deliver the keynote address via video conference later this month.
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.
"This is the same politician who was refused a diplomatic visa by the US on March 18, 2005 on the ground that he, as the Chief Minister, did nothing to prevent a series of orchestrated riots that targeted Muslims in Gujarat," the letter noted.