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Why Modi favourite Amitabh Bachchan could lose out on Incredible India

Somi Das | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 6:44 IST

Immediately after the Tourism Ministry ended its contract with actor Aamir Khan as the brand ambassador of Incredible India, in January 2016, Amitabh Bachchan's name was floated as a possible replacement. 

Khan's seven-year-long association with the campaign came to an abrupt end after his statement on increasing intolerance in India. His comments were perceived by many in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as "anti-national". In fact, BJP leaders like Manoj Tewari said that Khan was unfit to remain the ambassador as his remarks were completely opposed to the purpose of the Incredible India campaign. 

Bachchan, on the other hand, was seen as the perfect person to lend his face and voice to the campaign promoting tourism in the country. 

Apart from being a Bollywood superstar with an unparalleled stature, he already had a successful run as Gujarat's brand ambassador. A factor that led to a friendship of sorts between him and the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi.   

Bachchan was also seen as politically unaligned. He was neither part of the "award wapsi" brigade, nor among the "rising intolerance" proponents -- exactly the kind of person BJP wanted to represent one of its most high profile campaigns.  

Recently, there was also news about Modi's extreme fondness for Bachchan, so much so that he wanted to nominate him as the country's President! However, given that the source of this information is a former political friend of Bachchan's, Amar Singh, known for his revelations about the Bachchans time and again, it can't really be taken at face value. Earlier even Shatrughan Sinha seemed aligned to the idea of Bachchan becoming the next President of India. 

But all the adulation came to naught once Amitabh Bachchan's name appeared in the Panama leaks. The document revealed a plethora of information on how the rich and famous park their money in offshore companies. Now, Priyanka Chopra, who was also in the running along with Bachchan, from the very beginning, is one of the frontrunners to represent the campaign. 

In a bid to counter reports about the assignment slipping out of his hands due to the Panama papers, the actor was quick to issue a statement saying he was never formally approached for the role of brand ambassador.  

About 500 names, including that of KP Singh of the DLF group, Sameer Gehlaut of the Indiabulls group, and Vinod Adani of the Adani group, made it to the leaked list. However, by virtue of being a Bollywood megastar, Bachchan has been the public face of the fallout and at the receiving end of social media wrath. 

On his part, Bachchan has denied reports of his being a director in any offshore company, situated in the Bahamas and Virgin Islands, saying his name might have been "misused".

Nevertheless, a brand ambassador of a government project, much like Ceaser's wife must be above suspicion. Bringing back black money is one of PM Modi's key promises. So, at a time when world leaders are seen stepping down from their position following the leaks, the least the Indian government could do was to distance itself from Bachchan... At least for the time being. 
First published: 21 April 2016, 6:20 IST
Somi Das @Somi_Das

Somi brings with her the diverse experience of working in a hard news environment with ample exposure to long-form journalism to Catch. She has worked with Yahoo! News, India Legal and Newslaundry. As the Assistant Editor of Catch Live, she intends to bring quality, speed and accuracy to the table. She has a PGD in Print and TV journalism from YMCA, New Delhi, and is a lifelong student of Political Science.