Nara Lokesh inducted into AP cabinet: Chandrababu Naidu's son is latest chapter of India's dynastic politics

When Nara Lokesh, son of Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, took oath as a member of the legislative council, on 30 March in the upcoming new capital Amaravati, it was clear that the ceremony heralded the rise of the son in the 'Sunrise State'. The much-anticipated induction of Lokesh into the state cabinet on Sunday morning at a function also saw 10 new faces in and five old ministers out.

But the main focus is on Lokesh, who is expected to play a key role in the government and in running the Telugu Desam Party. Ever since he was formally inducted into the ruling TDP in 2013 and appointed as the head of its youth wing (and the national general secretary of the party later), Chandrababu has been under pressure to make his son a minister. But the chief minister has been resisting the demand from party cadre and senior leaders, mainly because he does not want to push a novice into the rough and tumble of politics. Now, the TDP supremo seems to have felt that Lokesh has received enough grounding to handle a key ministry on his own and challenge the Opposition in the 2019 state Assembly elections.

The chief minister’s aim to make his son a cabinet colleague is two-fold: First, grooming him as his successor and second, removing the possibility of creating an extra-constitutional authority in the run-up to the state polls. Chandrababu, being an astute politician, is preparing the ground for the next poll victory by anointing Lokesh with a ministerial position. The point not to be missed in the exercise is Chandrababu’s cautious move to bring his son into active politics by facilitating an easy entry through the legislative council without putting him through the rigour of fighting an Assembly election.

Now, the TDP strongman has paved the political path for Lokesh, but can he hone his skills in time to face the electorate in two years’ time? That’s the million dollar question.

His supporters claim Lokesh is actively involved in TDP’s welfare programmes on health, education, skill development, disaster management, etc through the NTR Memorial Trust and his interaction with the beneficiaries is considered to be positive. Since it is mostly behind-the-scenes work, some party stalwarts think Lokesh should be brought into limelight by making him a minister so that he can be projected as a mass leader in the coming days.

File image of Nara Lokesh and Chandrababu Naidu. PTI

File image of Nara Lokesh and Chandrababu Naidu. PTI

In this respect, a comparison is inevitable with K Taraka Rama Rao (KTR), son of Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), who holds half a dozen key portfolios in the state government. Incidentally, KCR named his son after the legendary film actor-turned politician Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (NTR) who was the founder of the Telugu Desam Party.

Since the formation of Telangana state in 2014, KTR has been the right hand man of his chief minister father and the moving spirit behind the state’s welfare programmes and industrial development, particularly in the IT sector. US-educated, like Lokesh, an articulate KTR is considered an asset to the Telangana chief minister in taking the state on the stated objectives of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi. Even without being anointed as successor, KTR is seen as the unquestioned TRS leader to become chief minister whenever the occasion arises.

Few have such confidence in Lokesh. One reason could be that so far he has been working in the shadows and in order to prove his mettle, he has to emerge. His elevation to minister should give Lokesh an opportunity to affirm his political goals and ambitions without being supercilious, an accusation he faced in September last year when a photograph of Lokesh pointing a finger at Andhra Pradesh home minister Nimmakayala China Rajappa, who was seen standing ashen-faced, at a meeting went viral.

That the telltale picture raised many uncomfortable questions about Lokesh and his role in party affairs was a different matter. But the issue remains whether he is capable of leading the caste-based, faction-ridden TDP along with his father Chandrababu for another five-year term in 2019.

Interestingly, the political power of father-son duos are nowhere more pronounced than in the two Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Besides Lokesh and KTR, another who became a power centre before the other two entered the political stage is Jaganmohan Reddy, son of former chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh YS Rajasekhar Reddy, who died in a helicopter crash in 2009. Notwithstanding several cases pending against Jagan — acquisition of wealth in an inappropriate manner and allegations of corruption — he has fought elections in both states and is the Opposition leader in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly.

More importantly, he remains a formidable challenger to the TDP. When Lokesh is pitted against the other two, he comes a poor third in political acumen. Nevertheless, sons and daughters following in the footsteps of fathers and mothers is not an unusual phenomenon in the world of politics across the globe. Those who have made the cut are fewer than those who have fallen wayside. While it is rare sons inheriting political power from fathers or mothers in western democracies, our political families (dynasties) have perfected the system over the years. In fact, our democracy has been turned into dynastic-centric.

If it is Akhilesh and Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, in Bihar, it is Lalu Prasad Yadav’s family that calls the shots whether in power or not. At the national level, the credit of being the mother of all political dynasties goes to Congress. Despite innumerable setbacks, the Grand Old Party still wants the Nehru-Gandhi family scion Rahul to lead the nation. When do our leaders realise that giving more weight to political lineage than the proven ability is self-defeating and ultimately harms interests of the party and the nation?

Updated Date: Apr 04, 2017 10:37 AM

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