He was to be chief speaker at the March 22-23 conference, but the invitation was canceled Sunday after a protest led by several professors of Indian origin at Penn.
After Modi was dropped, the event's lead sponsor, billionaire Gautam Adani, head of the Adani Group, an energy and port conglomerate, pulled out of the event, citing scheduling conflicts. Software-outsourcing giant Hexaware Technologies, which counts Unisys of Blue Bell and Newtown Square's SAP America as partners, and its chairman, Atul Nishar, also dropped out, citing "other business engagements."
Modi is a leader of the Hindu nationalist BJP political party, whose leaders say India is fundamentally a Hindu nation. That is in conflict with the view of the National Congress political movement, which is secular and socialist-leaning.
The conference had invited Modi to speak via Skype because of the U.S. State Department travel ban. The ban was reinforced by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in December after 25 U.S. congressmen, led by Chester County Republican Joe Pitts, urged that Modi remain banned.
Besides the Muslim killings, the State Department cited under Modi's governance state harassment of Christians and state textbooks glorifying Nazis.
After Wharton invited Modi, Penn professors Toorjo Ghose (social work) and Ania Loomba and Suvir Kaul (English professors) circulated a protest petition.
"We are outraged" by the invitation, they wrote, given the killings of more than 1,000 Gujaratis and Modi's failure to punish the killers.
In canceling Modi, conference organizers said they hoped to avoid conflict between "sub-segments of the alumni base, student body, and our supporters."
Wharton sought to distance itself from the controversy with a statement emphasizing that conference leaders were students, adding that Wharton "regret[s] any confusion that may have been caused by the change."
Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com, or follow @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.