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Modi should have been allowed to speak once he was invited at Wharton: Aakar Patel


Updated: March 7, 2013, 7:58 PM IST
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Modi should have been allowed to speak once he was invited at Wharton: Aakar Patel
Wharton address controversy: Was Narendra Modi targeted unfairly?

Columnist Aakar Patel shared his perspective on the Wharton address controversy and whether Narendra Modi was targeted unfairly.

Q. Hi Aakar ji, I am huge fan of your article and you as columnist. My Question is if Modi is targeted it will lead to counter productive and Modi get more mileage to become PM of India or PM Candidate. Asked by: Jagannath Pujar

A. In this particular case, I agree with you. I think he should have been allowed to speak and there was no cause for the university to take back the invitation once it was extended. So far as it getting him mileage goes, I don't think this affects his popularity one way or the other.

Q. It looks baffling, Wharton knew the ground realities on Modi. They'd issued invitation, now hardly two weeks before they cancel, do you feel INC has got to more with this move - to defame Modi? Asked by: SIVAKUMAR IYER BS

A. I don't think it has defamed Modi. It has given him press, and for a change a lot of it is in his favour. Wharton did not issue the initial invite. It was done by the Indian students there. It was retracted by Wharton after the protest led by Indian faculty members.

Q. Isn't it a worrisome trend that opinion of a group results to banning of an individual(who is not convicted by any courts in India or abroad) by an institution that has such a rich history? Controversies also gloom planning commission chairman and hence doesn't this sound like a political conspiracy and Wharton has taken wrong decision owing to small group of individuals? Isn't it highly susceptible that INC has influenced Wharton? Asked by: Ram

A. Firstly, Wharton is hardly Oxford or Cambridge or Harvard or MIT or even Yale for it to be so referred to in such hallowed terms. This is an MBA school, not a humanities school, which extended the invitation. I don't think this is a conspiracy, political or otherwise. If Modi had spoken there he would have gotten less publicity than he has for not speaking. So don't accept the argument that Congress is involved, but I could be wrong.

Q. It is surprising that a university like Wharton does not do ample research before deciding its list of speakers. one feels it was unnecessary to call him and then withdraw the same. Of course he got free publicity though. What is your take sir? Asked by: Narayan

A. I agree with what you're saying. It is sloppy for Wharton to have first called him and then realised that he was too hot for them to handle. Bad show. So far as publicity goes, he does not need Wharton to do that for him. He need only speak in public, anywhere, and this will become news because he is the main figure of the 2014 election.

Q. Has intolerance risen up on a global level? Earlier people used to at least hear out the other person's views before taking a stand. Now people have prejudiced minds from the beginning. What should we do to change this attitude? Asked by: EMathew

A. We should absolutely listen to what the other person have to say. This is intolerance and I am on Modi's side on this one. He should have been allowed to speak once he was invited.

Q. Would Mr Modi himself really care about this? So many peole analysing and debating about this but no hint or indication from the man himself about how he feels... Would he be bothered at all? Asked by: c4conscience

A. I don't think it worries him. He is concerned about how he is seen by the public, but in this case he is in the right. So there's no reason for him to think about how it reflects on him.

Q. My question is on Adani's withdrawal & how it is linked to Modi. Does it give an impression that Adani put sponsor money for Modi to speak? Asked by: Rahul P

A. I thought that was a little strange too. Perhaps Gautam Adani was expressing his solidarity with Modi. But if so he should have done it openly. I noticed that the Adani logo was suddenly removed from the Whartonindia.com website. It appears to have been (I could be wrong) the result of pressure from Adani.

Q. It would have given another platform for Modi to give his outline for India's growth and the people could have benefited better on his credentials for leading the nation. Do you agree? Asked by: EMathew

A. Certainly it would have given him a chance to talk about Gujarat and what things he has done there to bring about growth. He does not need a forum abroad to present himself as a candidate for an Indian election.

Q. Seems like a global phenomena that a small minor group can hold the others at gun point. Your thoughts? Asked by: EMathew

A. It is a small place. Wharton's Indian students must number in the dozens. The whole of UPenn probably has a few hundred or so. It's not really that important a group. But I agree that it is wrong for a group of people, however small or big, to deny those who wanted to listen to Modi the opportunity to engage with him. Not done.

Q. There was also news of Modi having lobbied for his Visa a few days before this announcement of address by Video Conference came out. Looks like Modi is desperate to make to some meetings in US. Your thoughts? Asked by: Rahul P

A. No, I don't think he is. In any case, the United States has denied him so far as I know an official, state visa. He is welcome to visit the US as a private citizen, though that is not something he would want to do. In any case, Modi can address any many Gujarati events in the US as he wants. Gujaratis, especially Patels, love him there and so I don't think he is desperate to get there.

Q. Is it deliberately done first inviting and then rejecting so that a particular person or a group benefit out of it. Asked by: Kashyap

A. I don't think so. The division here is quite amazing. It is the younger students who invited Modi and stood by their decision. It is the older professors who wanted it cancelled. Even at Delhi's Sri Ram School, the youngsters were enthusiastic about Modi. One usually thinks of the younger generation as being liberal, rebellious and defiant of authority, but in this case it seems as if it's the opposite.

Q. There are many instances in India where communal instances have happened. Why is it that only Modi is targeted. Even the other leaders did not take any actions and remained silent. Why only Modi Asked by: Ganesh

A. As Indians we should not accept violence whether in Delhi or Kashmir or Northeast or Gujarat. I accept this question to some extent. It is true that we don't speak as much about the Delhi violence as much as we do the Ahmedabad violence. And we also give a pass to the Congress to an extent which we don't give the BJP. Perhaps we need to correct that.

Q. This trend of some people objecting and then creating ruckus is becoming the order of the day. It appears any one can complain and especially if that person is from Minorities, Congress will go out of its way to cajole that Minority as it will lose their vote. Wharton should have allowed Modi to address and put difficult Qs to him to answer. What do you say? Asked by: Tushar

A. In this case, all three professors who led the agitation against Modi were Hindus. So I am not sure why you have alluded to this being something to do with Muslims. It does not. I think you're right that Wharton should have not cancelled its invitation to him once it called him. So far as answering questions goes, he doesn't do that over video conference. He usually just delivers a talks and that's it.

Q. Why GOI does not take visa denial to Modi from US seriously considering he is a elected leader and who is US to lecture us on rights? Asked by: Deepak Sharma

A. Manmohan Singh brought this up in parliament in 2005 when it first happened. This was communicated to the United States. We must understand that the US has not denied Modi a visa to visit as a citizen. He is free to do that. His visa on official visit is what the US has denied him, but that is their prerogative. I don't think as such it is that important.

Q. Mr Patel, this entire controversy is less about Mr. Modi or Wharton. This is more to do with the Sovereignty of the country. An elected CM of an Indian state being snubbed like that undermines our country. Do you agree? Asked by: Rohit.

A. I don't think India's sovereignty is affected by something like this. Sovereignty is the power to do things in your sovereign space. Wharton is not in India. In any case, this is too minor to affect even Modi, leave alone India. This is the result of an internal Indian students versus Indian faculty, young versus old skirmish at Wharton. It doesn't affect us, or shouldn't.

Q. Shashi Tharoor said that Modi should not have been disinvited, but given a Q&A session. Do you think Modi would have withdrawn himself if done so since he is not known to take questions in public forum? Asked by: Rahul P

A. Good question. I don't know. I have no idea what Tharoor has said, but once the invitation to speak over video conference was taken back, there is no chance that Modi would have agreed to doing anything else with these people from Wharton.

Q. Last 12 years Media, activist & self professed secular parties continuously targeted Modi same time Cong main opposition is Modi, we can believe they will spear him if he really involved? & Cong hold power for 10 years till they can't find any evidence to prosecute him? Asked by: Hari

A. I think what you're saying is that if Modi had been "involved" (in what?) he would have been caught by now since all the media and the opposition and activists are after him. I suppose the question to be asked is: What is he being accused of? If one says he was incompetent as Gujarat's home minister (a portfolio he still holds) it would be true because that is what the Supreme Court has said and the Gujarat state has accepted.

Q. These target seems organized by some vested interest people,why they can't get evidence to prove him guilty? Asked by: Hari

A. Don't think so. This is a faculty versus students squabble in Wharton. The students are attracted to Modi, the professors are horrified that this should be so. No question of vested interest, but I could be wrong.

Q. In a recent BJP's national council meeting, Modi's speech was considered as below the belt tantrums to Gandhi Family and Manmohan Singh by our so called elitist English media. Also I don't feel anything said by Mr Modi was incorrect. Hasn't Gandhi family promoted dynastic politics in the country? Does our prime minister has any view of its own on any issue? I feel Modi is very generous in calling him night watch man. Media also shows his partial treatment when they don't highlight about free speech right of Mr Modi. What are your thoughts here? Asked by: sumit

A. I am quite fond of Manmohan Singh. I am also fond of Narendrabhai, whom I know personally and have met often. I don't think I am needed to interpret what they have said about one another. It's a free country. Let someone say what they want.

Q. Sir, why don't the media stop this false propaganda against Modi and infact highlight that he has been given a clean chit from SIT appointed by the Supreme court? Asked by: Ankit

A. The media has never (to my knowledge) accused Mr Modi of causing the violence. He has been accused by the Supreme Court of incompetently investigating and prosecuting the riots cases. This is a fact that Gujarat has accepted. He is accused of not knowing, he was and still is home minister, that one of his ministers was out murdering 95 Gujaratis. In fact, he made her a minister later, though many people in Gujarat knew that she was guilty. She is now in jail for 28 years. He has also been persecuting the officer, Rahul Joshi, who found the cellphone records which showed that she was rioting and lying. Modi should be accountable for all this as home minister.

Q. If the faculty at Wharton does not like Narendra Modi, wouldn't it have been better to let him speak and then grill him with all their uncomfortable questions? Asked by: Arush Tandon

A. Yes, that would have been better. But Modi does not take questions over video conference. In any case, I think it was better to let those who were interested in what Modi had to say to listen to him. Those who did not like him or what they thought he had to say could have stayed absent.

Q. Mr Aakar Patel, When the Riot happened Narendrabhai requested the neighbouring Congress Ruled States of Maharashtra ruled by Congress, Madhya Pradesh ruled by Digvijay Singh and Rajasthan ruled by Ashok Gehlot to send troops. All these three State Governments refused to send any troops and help Modi ji, the greatest ever performing politician to quell the riots . What is your opinion on this Asked by: G. Ramadas

A. This is not true so far as I know. Modi asked the Vajpayee government, which was in power in the centre, to send in the army only after (I think it was ) four days. By then most of the violence was over.

Q. The biggest irony is that people don't know why did the riots happen? And the credit for this goes to the media. Asked by: Ankit

A. I am not sure what you mean. If you are suggesting that the burning of the Sabarmati Express was the reason for the riots, this is accepted as fact by almost everyone, certainly in the media.

Q. Don't you think that the media/opposition calling Modi communal is actually calling the voters of Gujarat as communal ? Also, anybody shaking hands with Modi on a dias is branded as communal, Amitabh doing tourism ads for Gujarat is branded as communal? Further, going on saying that in Gujarat Modi might win or work, but he will not be acceptable to anyone else in India...All these to me appears a big insult to the people of Gujarat...as if to say that Gujarat is communal so Modi gets elected..India is not like Gujarat. Asked by: Harsh

A. I accept that Gujaratis must bear on their conscience their vote for the BJP. So far as India goes, if a majority or even a plurality of Indians vote for the BJP and they nominate Modi as prime minister, I would have no objection to this. I would also defend him, if someone should oppose him after this, for taking the job.

Q. He is the most targeted politicians ever from 2002 to till now, even he said prove me guilty then hang me, instead of proving is it fair by targeting one person for votes & vested interest? Asked by: Hari

A. The question is not whether he was guilty of rioting. The question is whether he was: - Incompetent at preventing it. - Incompetent at knowing that his own ministers were involved (who are now in prison) - Deliberately victimising those police officers, like Rahul Sharma, who caught the BJP rioters. I am afraid the answer to all of these is: Yes.

Q. I feel Wharton pre-planned this drama to portray Narendra Modi in negative light in US and someone from our country has written the script for the same, I smell some conspiracy what's your take on this? Asked by: SriHarsha

A. I don't think so. The division here is quite amazing. It is the younger students who invited Modi and stood by their decision. It is the older professors who wanted it cancelled. Even at Delhi's Sri Ram School, the youngsters were enthusiastic about Modi. One usually thinks of the younger generation as being liberal, rebellious and defiant of authority, but in this case it seems as if it's the opposite.

Q. Mr Modi popular from Kashmir to Kanyakumari & still now he was not proved guilty, so what ever protest or media debate may favour & get more popular among people, is it right? Asked by: Hari

A. The BJP has no presence in Kashmir or Tamil Nadu (Kanyakumari) so you're wrong. He is a very popular man, and I think the more the media opposes him, the more his following backs him. But I do not think that being attacked by the media gets him more followers than he already has.

Q. Hi Aakar, Would any sort of communal violence in any part of the country roll up and thus become personal responsibility of state home minister then CM then Home minister of the country and eventually PM? If that's the case why Manmohan Singh and others are not guilty of controlling what happened in Assam while Modi is held responsible for everything that happened in Gujarat ? Even in Modi's case Atal Bihari Bajpai and Advani should have been held accountable as well. Whats your take on this? Asked by: Ashish

A. I don't think that civil society's violence is the reason for someone to be denied office. In Modi's case, I have long said that it is not the riots. It is his action later. He continues to persecute honest and brave police officers for taking the initiative to stop the violence and to bring BJP ministers to book. Mayaben Kodnani's cellphone records were secured by Rahul Sharma. For this he is being tried by the state under the Official Secrets Act. I find this despicable.

Q. I'm using this forum to ask you this why people who express their good opinion about Modi are targeted, whether people from some community or party or activist or business man or media person? Asked by: Hari

A. If this is happening, I do not accept it. Nobody should be attacked for holding a particular view. It must be debated and they must be engaged with.

Q. Mr Aakar, Modi ji has been accused of every time by the so called Secular activists, But the same Cong which accuses him of the killings of Muslims in the riots, have never been able to answer for the Anti-Sikh riots that followed Indira Gandhi's assassination. The number of people killed were far more higher then than the Gujarat Riots. The riots in Gujarat was controlled quickly than even the Anti-Sikh riots...But why is the Secularist Activists selectively forgotten that and only target Modi ji. Asked by: Senthilkumar

A. It is the secular activists like Manoj Mitta who have kept the Sikh Riots alive. Not BJP or Modi's fans.

First Published: March 7, 2013, 7:58 PM IST
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