Corporate India divided on Wharton’s snub to Modi

Atul Nishar skips meet, Colors to stay as sponsor.

Bureau Report

CHENNAI: A day after Adani group pulled out as sponsor of Wharton India Economic Forum, television channel Colors said they will continue to remain as a sponsor of the event, while Atul Nishar, head of infotech firm Hexaware Technologies, while saying he will not attend the meet as a speaker was noncommittal on the sponsorship front.

A file photo of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the Deputy Chairman of India's Planning Commision, addressing the Wharton India Economic Forum via satellite in March 2009.  Credit: Global India Newswire
Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the Deputy Chairman of India’s Planning Commission,  addressing the Wharton India Economic Forum via satellite in March 2009. Credit: Global India Newswire file photo

Wharton India Economic Forum, launched in 1996, stirred a controversy after it cancelled Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s address as a keynote speaker via a video link. The one-day event is scheduled on March 23rd at the Penn Museum, Philadelphia, reported the Business Standard.

Sources in television channel Colors said it will continue to remain a silver sponsor of the event. While Hexaware Technologies did not reply to mails sent by the Standard, on whether it will continue to support the event or not, its Chairman Atul Nishar, who is in the US, said that he will not be able to attend the forum as a speaker due to other business engagements. He was non-committal on the sponsorship.

Apart from these two companies, Incredible India, a government of India department is also a sponsor for the Wharton event.

Interestingly, after Adani pulled out as the sponsor of the event, Corporate India is divided into two camps. While one of the camps supports Modi and projects him as the next Prime Minister of India, others refrain from taking a stand, said the report.

During the Vibrant Gujarat annual event held this year, industrialists from all over India made a beeline to Ahmedabad pledging support to Gujarat by way of investment. Among the prominent Modi supporters are RIL Chairman, Mukesh Ambani, Bharti Airtel Chairman, Sunil Mittal and ADAG group chairman, Anil Ambani. In the previous Vibrant Gujarat events, Mittal and Ambani have publicly made statement on projecting Modi as the next Prime Minister of India.

Corporate leaders say Modi’s performance as Chief Minister of Gujarat is very good taking the economic indicators of the state into consideration and by cancelling the event; Wharton has snubbed the Indian leader. Few leaders also see the battle as a proxy fight between Congress and the BJP leader.

The other speakers listed for the event are Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia via video link, apart from Indian minister of IT, Milind Deora and Ron Somers, President of US-India Business Council.

Past speakers at the event included ADAG Chairman Anil Ambani, Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal, ICICI Bank Chairman K V Kamath and former Indian President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

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