The decision follows Wharton India Economic Forum’s cancellation of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s live video keynote address scheduled on March 23.

Following Wharton India Economic Forum’s cancellation of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s live video keynote address, former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu has pulled out of the event and the Adani Group of industries of Gujarat, the event’s “platinum” sponsor, has cancelled its sponsorship.

Suresh Prabhu, a leader of BJP-ally Shiv Sena, has called the University of Pennsylvania’s decision an insult to a democratically elected leader of India.

Soon after the sponsorship cancellation, it became known that the industrialist Gautam Adani who had been invited to the event will not be attending. Sources in the Adani Group, however, said that “Adani had conveyed his inability to join Wharton India Economic Forum long back (almost a fortnight ago) as he has other pressing business.”

The Adani Group has extensive business interests in Gujarat including a 5,000-MW power plant in Mundhra and an adjoining port that imports coal to feed the plant. The Opposition in Gujarat has often criticised the Narendra Modi Government of being partial to select industrial houses, including the Adanis.

Wharton had cancelled Narendra Modi’s keynote address scheduled on March 23, which he was to deliver via live video conference, after strong protests from a section of students and professors. They wrote in their letter of protest: “This is the same politician who was refused a diplomatic visa by the United States State Department on March 18, 2005 on the ground that he, as Chief Minister, did nothing to prevent a series of orchestrated riots that targeted Muslims in Gujarat.”

“The most conservative estimates are that over a thousand people, mostly Muslims, died in those riots. Thousands more were forced to leave their homes and businesses. Human Rights Watch (among other international and Indian bodies) showed that politicians and the police in the state abetted the slaughter and displacement of Muslim Gujaratis.”

Meanwhile, popular writer Chetan Bhagat has slammed Wharton. “Dear Wharton, the country you belong to routinely makes friends with dictators and military governments who used guns to be in power. Remember that,” he tweeted.