Narendra Modi
India's Prime Minster Narendra Modi (L) holds hands with actor Hugh Jackman on stage during the Global Citizen Festival concert in Central Park in New York.Reuters File

It is official! Knocking off names such as Amitabh Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra and others, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is confirmed to be the mascot for the Tourism Ministry's 'Incredible India' campaign.

The role, which was lying vacant since Aamir Khan was removed earlier this year, is aimed at attracting foreign travellers. Video footage of Modi during the last two-and-a-half years where he has talked about tourism in India and abroad will be used for the campaign, a senior ministry official said while adding that the ministry is "working on selecting the footage", which is expected to be released in the next 40-45 days.

The time deadline has been set considering that the Indian tourism season starts by November-end when the weather is favourable and it coincides with the Christmas holidays and New Year celebrations. Tourism ministry officials also added that they are in the process of selecting an ad agency that would carry out the task of running the campaign.

Though tourism ministry officials such as Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma and others had endorsed Modi earlier after asserting that tourist inflows from countries such as the US, Germany, Fiji, Brazil, Australia, the UK, Canada and Myanmar, among others, has witnessed a significant jump after Modi's visit to these nations, the chief information commissioner (CIC) who is looking into the cost of Narendra Modi's foreign travel may cast a shadow over this announcement.

The CIC is trying to dig and find out the details of how much was spent on PM Modi's foreign trips and whether bills cleared can be made public after Right to Information campaigner Lokesh Batra used an RTI to seek the details of the foreign travels of PM Modi and his predecessor Manmohan Singh. Batra says that the persistent delays in clearing flight charter bills are affecting national carrier Air India.

"Air India is in deep financial crisis and I wanted to know why it takes so long to clear bills to the national carrier under different regimes," Batra was quoted saying to NDTV.

The External Affairs Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office had flagged security concerns and refused to share the details. Batra, however, retorted to the claims of the information body and said that he just wants to study the reason for delays in clearing bills to Air India.

The Information Commission has asked the Prime Minister's Office to produce the information by November 18. PM Modi has travelled to over 40 countries since he took office in May 2014. Though the PM's official website put up details of his visits and the cost of chartering flights, for many of the tours there are gaps where bills are described as "under process" or "not received".

In the budget, money spent for the Prime Minister's foreign trips is listed under "Cabinet Ministers - Maintenance of PM's aircraft - other charges" and for his domestic visits, the expenses are billed to the Defence Ministry.

Most recently, the Aam Aadmi Party was questioned for encouraging a VIP culture despite vowing to change it in their election promises by the BJP and the Congress after an RTI filed by BJP leader Vivek Garg revealed that the AAP government had spent close to Rs 70 lakhs over 10 ten foreign trips taken by members of the party. Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb's Special Secretary has directed that details of foreign visits of ministers, their personal staff and official of the Delhi government should be furnished latest by September 12.

Coming down harshly on bureaucrats spending public money on frivolous trips abroad, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has even rejected proposals of ministers' foreign visits even after the Ministry of External Affairs' clearance. One can correlate this to how the media in the United States had exploded after a report had suggested that Obama's trip to India in 2015 had cost taxpayers around $200 million a day.

If any discrepancy regarding the PMO's foreign trips is revealed, it is certainly expected to affect the "Incredible India" campaign and also the tourism industry. 

Here are some reactions to PM Modi's appointment as the face of the Incredible India campaign: 

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