Amaravati or New Delhi?
That is the dilemma before Chandrababu Naidu. As the Telugu Desam Party (TDP)-led government in Andhra Pradesh moves into the second half of its term in office later this year, pressure is mounting on the chief minister to convince his son Nara Lokesh, the present TDP general secretary, to take up a role either in the Andhra Pradesh government or in New Delhi. Indications are that 33-year-old Lokesh, who it is widely believed will succeed his father after 2019, could be drafted into the Andhra cabinet, in a reshuffle around Dasara.
But before that decision can be taken, a lot of discussion will take place on whether Lokesh should spend time in New Delhi, like Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao's daughter Kavitha does, as Nizamabad MP. Doing so would help Lokesh familiarise himself with the central leadership of different parties, interact with young MPs, be his father's voice in the national capital and acquire a national profile. There was also talk about Lokesh being sent to the Rajya Sabha from Andhra Pradesh in June, but the idea was dropped subsequently.
A senior TDP leader, aware of what has happened, reasoned that if Lokesh became a Rajya Sabha MP, the expectation would be that he should also feature in Narendra Modi's government. "But at a time when we are not getting much financial assistance from the Centre, we will be accused of compromising Andhra's interests just to bag a berth for Lokesh," the leader said.
Naidu himself was apparently not keen on lobbying for another berth in addition to the one cabinet berth (civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju) and MoS (science and technology junior minister YS Choudhary) that the TDP has in the NDA government.
Lokesh was recently made the head of a coordination committee which will enable him to summon senior Andhra Pradesh ministers and discuss whether the government schemes are in tune with the party ideals and how they are being taken to the common man.
This was in addition to his role in the party where he along with other key leaders, played an important role in wooing disgruntled YSR Congress MLAs into the TDP fold. It had the twin effect of boosting TDP numbers and lung power in the assembly besides weakening YS Jaganmohan Reddy in many districts.
But while acknowledging his clout within the TDP, party leaders argue that Rahul Gandhi's decision to stay out of the Manmohan Singh government did not work for the Congress and do not want Lokesh to go down the same road. One of them, MLC Buddha Venkanna, has already offered to quit his post to enable Lokesh to get elected.
However, Naidu and the TDP are also conscious of the fact that Lokesh's entry will pit him in direct competition with Telangana's minister for IT, industry, municipal administration and NRI affairs, KT Rama Rao. Being given portfolios like IT and industry would make the comparison even more pronounced. At a time when Telangana, mainly because of capital city Hyderabad, is way ahead in terms of attracting investment in IT and other industries, TDP leaders fear that Lokesh, in public perception, may end up looking second best.
The final word has not been said yet. K Rammohan Rao, Andhra's special representative in New Delhi, saw his term end on 17 June, and not get an extension. This post comes with a state cabinet rank and the fact that Naidu has not extended the tenure of his trusted ally has sent confusing signals. But most TDP leaders believe that the job, despite Rao's very good personal rapport with politicians cutting across party lines, is merely "clerical" and would not be in keeping with Lokesh's profile as the number 2 in the party.