New Delhi: Even as actor Aamir Khan asserted that India will always remain 'incredible' and said that he respects government's decision to discontinue with his services for 'Incredible India' campaign, reports suggested on Thursday that megastar and legend Amitabh Bachchan is Narendra Modi government's first choice as the new face of the initiative.
Amitabh, the brand ambassador of Gujarat tourism, has emerged as the first choice of the campaign after actor Aamir Khan ceased to be its mascot.
"Amitabh Bachchan will be the first choice of the ministry for the job," a Tourism Ministry source said, adding actors Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra are among those under consideration.
He described the veteran actor as a "non-controversial" figure and noted that Bachchan was the key face for promotion of tourism in Gujarat which has seen an "upsurge" after he was hired by the state, as per PTI.
Khan, whose comments on perceived intolerance in the country had invited flak from BJP, ceased to be the mascot for the campaign as the contract for it expired.
"It was the (private) agency which has hired him. Since the contract with the agency is no more, automatically the arrangement with the actor no longer exists," Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma had said yesterday.
When asked about Aamir's removal as the mascot of 'Incredible India' campaign by news channels, Bachchan said 'PK' star's contract must have ended.
"I think you need to clarify first whether he is being removed because of something that he may have said or it's the end of his contract. I am sure that there must be some kind of difference there. I don't think that people are removed just because they did not agree or said something that is controversial," Bachchan said.
On the other hand, Aamir, 50, today made it clear that he never charged anything for his services over 10 years for the campaign.
"It is the prerogative of the government to decide whether they need a brand ambassador for any campaign, and if so, who that ambassador should be. I respect the decision of the government to discontinue with my services. I am sure they will take all appropriate steps to do what is best for the country," Aamir said in a statement.
Aamir said it had been an 'honour and a pleasure' for him to be the 'Brand Ambassador for the Incredible India campaign for the past 10 years'.
"I was happy to be of service to my country, and will always be available for it. I would like to clarify that all public service films I have done till date have all been free of any cost to me. It is always an honour for me to be of service to my country, and this is how it will always be. Whether I am brand ambassador or not, India will remain Incredible, and that's the way it should be," he said.
(With Agency inputs)