Will Chandrababu Naidu's son revive the TDP in Andhra?

by Sudhir  Mar 8, 2013 14:50 IST

#Andhra Pradesh   #Chandrababa Naidu   #Lokesh Nara   #TDP   #ThisisNext  

So far he has been a man of few words. Of 140 characters or less, to be precise. But for the past few months, Twitter provided a window into the mind of Nara Lokesh. (For those outside Andhra Pradesh who ask who's that, he is the only son of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu.)

Sample Lokesh's sporadic tweets :

On 1 March, after the Union Budget : "Taxambaram has delivered only one thing in this budget, more taxes!"

On 17 February (responding to some TDP leaders deserting the party to join YSR Congress) : "What do you call people who got political life with TDP & then support another party? Political betrayer, cheater, crook, deceiver, or 420?''

On 12 February he played cheerleader for dad's walkathon, tweeting : "@1000 km, they announced a poor copy of cash transfer scheme. @2000 km, we hear loan waiver. Padayatra tremors being felt in Delhi?"

Image from Lokesh Nara's Twitter feed

Image from Lokesh Nara's Twitter feed

And the day, the Telugu Desam announced it will abide by its 2008 letter (in which it said it supports the creation of Telangana), Lokesh taunted TRS leaders who had said they will work as attenders at TDP party office or resign if the party supported Telangana : "Harish, NTR Bhavan awaits your job application for an attender position. And KTR, when can we expect your resignation?''

Future politician or just a sarcastic troll, you may snigger. But there is no ignoring the fact that a career in politics awaits the son of Naidu and Bhuvaneswari ( NT Rama Rao's daughter).

For a party that looks to NTR's family as its natural leadership, it helps that Lokesh is also the son-in-law of Nandamuri Balakrishna, NTR's actor son. The other name often mentioned in the race for future leadership of the party - actor NTR (the grandson of the original NTR and Nandamuri Harikrishna's son) - is too preoccupied on the big screen to think of making it large politically.

So far, Lokesh, an MBA from Stanford, has chosen to be the backroom boy. His businessman avatar sees him as the Executive Director of Heritage Foods, the family concern. He also calls himself a TDP party worker and the cash transfer scheme that the party promised before the 2009 elections was Lokesh's brainchild and he takes credit for it in his Twitter bio, calling himself the "Cash Transfer Scheme Evangelist''. He earlier dabbled in running a television news channel, Studio N, with some friends, but with the channel not doing well, he got out of the venture.

On Thursday, Lokesh decided to make his debut political appearance. The 30-year-old travelled to Chittoor district, to make full use of the home advantage. His father Naidu hails from the district, he studied in Tirupati and his constituency is Kuppam. Lokesh will spend three days travelling in the district which borders Tamilnadu. The district TDP leaders have pulled out all stops to ensure Naidu junior's debut is received with enthusiasm. On paper, he is merely following Dad's instructions to meet people in his constituency since Naidu has been on a padayatra since 2 October. But the roadshow that has been laid out, leaves no one in doubt that Lokesh has been for all practical purposes, drafted into the TDP team and is all set to play a bigger role, beyond Kuppam.

Seniors in the party publicly say they prefer to wait and watch, insisting that Lokesh will have to work his way up and that he will not be given a position in the party overnight.

Privately they fawn on him, pointing out that being born into a family that has produced two chief ministers, politics is in his DNA. Already posters put up by partymen that bear the photographs of Naidu, Balakrishna and Lokesh have been spotted in Hyderabad, if that any indication of which way the wind is blowing.

Comparisons are also being made to the Mulayam-Akhilesh duo's success story in the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh last year, made more enchanting by the fact that both parties have the same symbol - the bicycle. The hope is that Lokesh will do an Akhilesh and help the TDP pedal to power in Hyderabad.

Lokesh's entry will mark the generational shift in TDP politics. Already other parties like the TRS (through K Chandrasekhar Rao's children K T Rama Rao and Kavitha) and YSR Congress (through Jaganmohan Reddy and Sharmila) have ushered in young blood. Lokesh will be expected to appeal to the young voters of Andhra Pradesh, speaking to them in a lingo that they understand.

There is considerable speculation over whether Lokesh will also contest the Lok Sabha or Assembly elections next year. The view in the party is that irrespective of whether Dad gives him a ticket or not, party candidates will seek him as a campaigner in their constituencies.

2014 will be an extremely critical election for the TDP as it can not afford to lose a third election in a row. Naidu would hope the party sees a sunrise after being out of power since 2004. Meanwhile, the son-rise is happening well in advance.

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