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March 21, 2010

Big B loses Kerala job over Modi links


21 March 2010

Left Front govt unlikely to appoint the brand ambassador of Gujarat tourism, says Yechury

It is now official: Left-ruled Kerala has decided not to have Amitabh Bachchan promote the state's tourism, all because the latter has agreed to root for tourism in Gujarat, the state ruled by Narendra Modi. The idea of roping in the actor and then drop him after the CPM top brass in Delhi opposed it was not originally mooted by the Kerala government.

Bachchan himself, had in an interview to a Malayalam TV channel, expressed his "willingness" to be the state's tourism ambassador. The state government followed it up with a formal invitation to him, hand-delivered by noted cinematographer Santosh Sivan. The Big B said yes.

Senior CPM leader and Politburo member Sitaram Yechury told The Sunday Express: "The state government will decide on the issue. But I am sure it will not appoint the same brand ambassador representing the Narendra Modi government. I am sure this will not happen." CPM leader Vaikom Vishwan, also Kerala Left Front's convenor, said the national CPM leadership did not want anyone remotely connected to Modi to have anything to do with its government in Kerala.

Kerala Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told The Sunday Express: "Since the issue has created a controversy, we will take a final decision after considering all the factors." However, both CPM as well as Kerala government sources confirmed that the idea has been dropped.

Modi has influenced Kerala politics in different ways after the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The CPM and other Left parties have used the riots issue to win over the Muslim community which constitutes 24 per cent of the state's 3.2 crore population. Radical Muslim outfits have used video footages of the riots and documentaries based on it to indoctrinate youths, which was later exposed following the arrest of several youths from Kerala on charges of terror activities and bomb blasts.

During last Parliamentary elections, the CPM chucked A P Abdullakutty, the then sitting MP, after he made an observation that Kerala should learn investment and development from Gujarat.

Embarrassed CPM sources in Kerala said there was no crisis in the tourism sector. "In 2009, 75 lakh tourists arrived in the state, which is a growth of 15 per cent compared to the year before. Even international tourist arrivals logged 7.5 lakhs, a lot more than the previous year," said a senior party leader.