Hyderabad: With speculation rife about an imminent expansion of the Andhra Pradesh council of ministers, there is talk that chief minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu will induct his only son Nara Lokesh into the cabinet, as he grooms him to be his successor.

Party insiders confirmed that there will be a cabinet expansion and Lokesh’s entry is certain.

“The cabinet expansion and the timing is the prerogative of the chief minister," said Kambhampati Rammohan Rao, former Rajya Sabha member and special representative of the Andhra Pradesh government in Delhi.

Rao, considered a close aide of Naidu, did not rule out the possibility of Lokesh’s induction.

“Where is the doubt," Rao said, referring to Lokesh’s entry into the cabinet.

Announcing details of his family assets at a media conference last week, Lokesh said he will abide by whatever decision the party and politburo takes, referring to his appointment as a cabinet minister.

Lokesh, who has been working for the party at the organizational level as coordinator and treasurer of TDP Workers’ Welfare Fund, was promoted last year as ex-officio member of the politburo and general secretary of the central committee. The politburo is party’s principal decision-making body.

Lokesh said he was promoted for his work which included overseeing enrolment of five million people into the party and providing insurance to party workers.

Prior to joining politics, the 33-year-old ran his family business, Heritage Foods Ltd, which is into dairy and retail.

Lokesh holds an MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business and a bachelor’s in science (BS) with specialization in management information systems from Carnegie Mellon University.

Analysts say there will not be any opposition from within the party ranks or from the extended family of late N.T. Rama Rao (NTR), founder of the TDP, to Lokesh. A possible challenge from NTR’s grandson and Telugu film star, N.T. Rama Rao Junior, was largely neutralized—he was kept away from the party.

To be sure Naidu, 66, hasn’t yet dropped any hint of retiring from active politics, and is expected to lead the party in the 2019 assembly and general elections, according to party insiders.

“There is pressure within the party to give a larger role to Lokesh in the government, but Naidu is cautious," said a person who worked with Lokesh and Naidu, on condition of anonymity.

“Naidu is wary of media making it into a Lokesh versus Jagan Mohan Reddy (president of YSR Congress Party) contest too early and comparisons with K.T. Rama Rao (son of K. Chandrashekar Rao, chief minister of Telangana), exposing Lokesh’s inexperience," the person cited above said.

“Lokesh will be the heir-apparent of Chandrababu Naidu. It’s a foregone conclusion," said K. Nageshwar, political analyst and editor of the Hyderabad-based Hans India newspaper.

“It is easy to promote a son, when the party is in power. Ultimately he has to be promoted before the 2019 elections and will have to compete with Jagan Mohan Reddy. That’s inevitable for his political survival," Nageshwar added.

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