Naidu's TDP pins hopes on 'sunrise'

At a time when dynasty politics has once again occupied the centre-stage of national debate thanks to Rahul Gandhi’s remarks, Andhra Pradesh is set to witness the rise of another ‘son’ on its political horizon.

Former chief minister and Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu’s industrialist-son Nara Lokesh has emerged as the cynosure of all eyes after he kicked off a well-orchestrated road show in Chittoor district, the traditional bastion of his father, recently.

Virtually launching his political innings, the 30-year-old Lokesh, a Stanford management graduate, has been holding review meetings with the local party leaders, conducting road shows from an open-top jeep, delivering fiery speeches targeting the Congress government and receiving petitions from the people. His three-day tour of Kuppam Assembly constituency, being represented by his father, is seen in the TDP circles as a clear indication of the young leader being groomed to play a larger role ahead of the 2014 general elections. “We are very happy with the public response to his road shows. He has been able to connect with the people, particularly the youth, and strike a chord with them,” says a TDP spokesperson.

Political road show

Though Lokesh is widely seen as a ‘backroom boy’ of the party, giving strategic inputs to its policies and programmes, it is for the first time that the shy and reticent scion of the Nara family is conducting a political road show. His father, on the other hand, is currently on a marathon, 2,300 km long walkathon across the state and has crossed over 1,000 km since the launch of the mass contact programme on October 2.

In Chitoor, the home turf of chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, Lokesh addressed a road side meeting pitting himself against jailed Kadapa MP Y S Jaganmohan Reddy and warned people that the state would be totally destroyed if they vote the YSR Congress to power. He said while YSR Congress was corrupt, Congress was incompetent. Stating that the administration had been totally derailed in the state, he said if were to be put on rails back, his father Chandrababu Naidu should come back to power.

At a time when other parties such as TRS (K Chandrasekhar Rao’s children K T Rama Rao and Kavitha) and YSR Congress (Jaganmohan Reddy and Sharmila) have ushered in young blood, Lokesh is expected to appeal to the young voters of Andhra Pradesh, speaking to them in the language that they understand. Savvy with the social media, he tweeted after the Union Budget, ‘Taxambaram has delivered only one thing in this budget, more taxes!’

Lokesh’s rise in the party has evoked an immediate comparison to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav who had fashioned a smooth generational change in the Samajwadi Party with the help of extensive mass contact programmes and steered his party to victory in the last Assembly elections.

The 64 year-old Chandrababu Naidu, who had served as the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh for nine years after dethroning his father-in-law in a political coup in 1995, is hoping that his son will be able to take over the affairs of his party. Before embarking on a grueling 117-day padayatra criss-crossing the state, he had delegated the party coordination work to his son in what is seen as a prelude to handing over the party’s throne to him. Since its inception in 1982 on the plank of ‘Telugu pride,’ the TDP has been a close-knit, family-driven organisation.

Though there is no immediate need now for Naidu to declare his heir, the talk about grooming his son to step into his shoes is gaining momentum in the party which is desperately looking for a dash of youth to infuse a new sense of hope among the despondent cadres. Since losing power in 2004, the party has not won a single Assembly election so far.

However, a section of party leaders feel that Lokesh, though educated abroad and gifted with managerial skills, lacks mass appeal. His corporate style of functioning may not be suited to run a political party, they argue. There are also fears that Lokesh’s eventual coronation could trigger a bitter succession battle in the regional party founded by Naidu’s father-in-law and matinee idol of Telugu cinema late NT Rama Rao.

NTR’s actor-son and senior TDP leader N Harikrishna is keen on promoting his son and popular film star ‘Junior NTR’ to take over the party reins. Senior party leaders believe that irrespective of whether papa Naidu gives him a ticket or not, Lokesh will be a star campaigner in their constituencies. 2014 will be an extremely critical election for the TDP as it cannot afford to lose a third election in a row. Naidu would hope the party sees a sunrise after being out of power since 2004.

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