Red card for Amitabh Bachchan

NEW DELHI: Almost a fortnight after Kerala’s tourism minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan wrote to Amitabh Bachchan offering him brand ambassadorship of Kerala Tourism, a section within the CPM, including some politburo members, have come out against the proposal.
For them, brand ambassador of Narendra Modi’s Gujarat for the Left-controlled state is sacrilege. Mr Bachchan, who had accepted the Kerala’s government’s proposal a week ago, had in the CPM’s eyes committed the cardinal sin of praising Mr Modi. Mr Bachchan had said that he was promoting a state, not an individual.

The differences within the CPM came to the fore on Thursday when politburo member Sitaram Yechury said Kerala and BJP-ruled Gujarat cannot have the same brand ambassador. “The decision will be made by the state government. At the same time that I am confident that the LDF will not appoint a person as brand ambassador who is already a brand ambassador for Modi’s Gujarat,” Mr Yechury told reporters.

But Mr Balakrishnan, a politbureau members and number 2 in the state Cabinet, is determined to go ahead with the government’s decision. “We will be sending a senior tourism official to Mumbai to hold discussions with Bachchan. If the terms and conditions are mutually acceptable, he will be made the brand ambassador for tourism. It all depends on how the specifics are going to work out,” officials in the Kerala government said.

The state government has already deputed the director of tourism M Sivasankar to hold talks with Mr Bachchan. However, there are worries within the state party unit that the move could upset Muslims in the state. The CPM had adopted an aggressive Muslim appeasement strategy during the recent Lok Sabha polls to re-capture its waning minority votebank.

The bickering within the party is bound to cause some embarrassment to the LDF government, which decided to approach Mr Bachchan at a time when Kerala’s tourist figures were dropping. The state government had been searching for a brand ambassador to give a boost to tourism in the state when Mr Bachchan in a television interview expressed his willingness to become brand ambassador for Kerala tourism.

The state’s efforts to draw tourists to its breathtaking beauty have taken a hit with frequent hartals paralysing life and often causing violence. With a record of around 100 hartals a year at one point, all of which were generally successful, the state bears the loss of several crores.



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