Narendra Modi and Wharton Economic Forum

Chief minister of Gujarat, Mr Narendra Modi is anticipated to be prime ministerial candidate of BJP led NDA party for the upcoming national general election of the year 2014. Mr. Modi has many achievements to his credit. He has won three consecutive state elections. He has created an atmosphere in the state that is friendly for business. State is surplus in electricity, state has no water scarcity, and state has good infrastructure in terms of road. However, his detractors claim that Mr. Modi is a dictator. He rules like an one man team despite being in a democratic setup. Mr. Modi’s Gujarat is friendly to rich business tycoons but ignores poor people. Business leader from outside India also endorse the view that Modi has created a business friendly Gujarat, that is relatively corruption and red tape free. Many Gujarat’s poor suffer from poverty and mal nutrition. Moreover, many claim Mr Modi presided over killing of muslims during post Godhra riots.

In this backdrop it is important to discuss recent controversy about Wharton India Economic Summit. Students of Wharton business school had invited Mr. Modi to deliver a plenary lecture about Gujarat model of development. However, detractors of Mr. Modi initiated a signature campaign to exert pressure on the organisers of the conferene. Result was organisers withdrew their invitation to Modi, which apparently he had accepted. This incident resulted in withdrawl from the conference of Modi sympathiser, Adani Group, which was sponsoring big money for the event. Several additional speakers also backed out claiming that it is an insult to India, if an elected Chief Minister is ejected from an event after he had accepted the invite.
While Modi detractors are gloating about the incidence, claiming that Modi is not suitable for global meet, he is also not suitable to be prime minister of India. By contrast, Modi’s party is caught in a bind. They are bad mouthing Modi opponents, claiming that the conference is an non issue, absence of Modi was Wharton’s loss. However, Modi supporters are unable to answer, if Wharton is such a non-issue, why did Modi agreed to participate in it. Then there is the issue of freedom of speech. Is the University and organisers gave in to protesters, in the process undermining freedom speech guaranteed by constitution.
In my mind, the issue is more complicated. Firstly, if anyone is to be blamed, it has to be the organisers. These people should have thought about the consequences of inviting Mr. Modi. Once they had extended an invite, and Mr. Modi had accepted, organisers should have stuck to their position. The organisers could have requested Mr. Modi to agree to answer questions by audience. That way, at least,  the organisers could have given everyone a chance to hear both pro Modi and anti Modi views. Secondly, Mr. Modi sympathisers could have used the same technique as Modi opponents and applied reverse pressur on the organisers. 
At the end of the day, Mr. Modi has to live with blot of Gujarat riot. Not only the riot happened during his rule, Mr. Modi did not even said any kind word of solace to the riot victims. This should have been his duty because he was elected by people of Gujarat. At the same time, one cannot ignore Mr. Modi’s administrative skills and vision of growth and development. Mr. Modi is a genuine mass leader. He can sway audience, arouse their hope and ambition through his speech which are mostly extempore. By contrast, most rivals of Modi are not as good an orator, if they have any vision nation does not know. Modi can beat his nearest rival any day. Mr. Modi can win prime minister’s seat, but will he get national acceptance? Will muslims forgive him? May be not, but India needs to decide even if we do not like a person can we vote for him for his ability to give a glimmer of good and honest government and governance? When we see what is in store if we elect some other people, India needs to think hard and decide. 

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