Naidu’s son Lokesh faces acid test to prove himself

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IEP Dehradun

At a time when Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu is facing perhaps the toughest challenge of his political career, his son Nara Lokesh is set to make his electoral debut.

Considered number two in the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Lokesh will be facing his first test to go beyond his limited role to prove himself as a leader with a mass base and someone who can be his father’s political successor.

Though a minister in his father’s cabinet since 2017, this 36-year-old Stanford management graduate will be entering the fray for next month’s Assembly elections. He has, hitherto, been a member of the upper house of the state legislature.

Making a beginning as ‘backroom boy’ a decade ago and with a ‘backdoor’ entry into the cabinet, this burly-looking young leader is yet to make his presence felt on the bigger political stage.

After scouting for a safe constituency for his son, Naidu zeroed in on Mangalagiri, located in state capital region of Amaravati.

However, winning this seat may not be a cakewalk for Lokesh. A. Ramakrishna Reddy of the YSR Congress Party was elected from here in 2014, though with a very narrow margin of 12 votes. The opposition party has again fielded the outgoing legislator.

It was during the 2009 elections that Lokesh started becoming active in the TDP, working as backroom strategist. He was then working as the managing director of Heritage Foods, a leading family-owned dairy firm.

However, it was only 2013 that Lokesh formally became active in the party. With a firm grip on party for over two decades, Naidu never faced any opposition to his attempts to groom his son as his successor. The only dissenting voice was his brother-in-law, N. Harikrishna, who died in a road accident last year.

Harikrishna was keen to see his son and popular actor Junior NTR take over the mantle of the party founded by his late father, N.T. Rama Rao, who was popular as NTR.

Lokesh is married to N. Brahmani, daughter of his maternal uncle N. Balakrishna, a leading actor and a TDP legislator.

Brahmani is currently the executive director of Heritage Foods, which is run by her mother-in-law, N. Bhuvaneswari.

After being appointed as TDP general secretary in 2015, Lokesh came to be seen as the number two. Also a member of politburo, the party’s highest decision-making body, he has been closely involved in party activities, especially the welfare of party workers.

For TDP supporters, he is their ‘Chinna Babu’ (junior Babu) but for his opponents, he is ‘Andhra pappu’ who has often been the butt of jokes in the social media. The critics often ridiculed him for his fumbles during public speeches in Telugu.

Lokesh was elected (by TDP MLAs) to the Legislative Council, the upper house of the state legislature, in 2017. He was subsequently inducted into the cabinet and given the portfolios of Panchayat Raj, Rural Development and Information Technology.

Locked in a neck-and-neck fight with the YSR Congress Party, Chandrababu Naidu is perhaps facing the toughest challenge in his political career spanning 40 years. His flip-flop over the special category status to Andhra Pradesh and ties with the Congress, a party which was his enemy for 36 years but whom he has now made up, all landed him in troubled waters.

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