Hyderabad: Nara Lokesh, 36, may soon take centre stage in the affairs of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) with age becoming a factor in the activities of his father and party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, who is 69 years old.
Naidu might not be able to undertake another ‘padayatra’ like he did before the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly elections, senior TDP leaders said. Nara is thus likely to be given more responsibility for such activities and to lead the party, the leaders said.
Naidu is undergoing a health checkup in the US and is expected to be back in the next few days, said a senior TDP leader who did not want to be named. “Once he is back, we will also properly assess the loss to the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) we faced in this year’s general and state elections. There are other organizational decisions also that have to be taken and we cannot rule out that some more people might want to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)," he said.
The TDP faced a drubbing at the hands of the YSRCP, winning just 23 assembly seats out of 174 and three Lok Sabha constituencies out of 25. The YSRCP, led by party president and chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, won a staggering 151 assembly and 22 parliamentary seats.
The loss left the TDP with much to think about, especially whether its core backward classes (BC) had shifted loyalties during voting to the ruling YSRCP.
Moreover, four Rajya Sabha members and a handful of local leaders also defected to the BJP recently. The development had taken place when both Naidu and Lokesh were in Europe.
Lokesh, party general secretary, has been facing flak internally after the loss, said the TDP leader cited above. Lokesh was a member of the legislative council during the tenure of the previous government led by his father and held the information technology portfolio. He, however, lost the Mangalagiri assembly seat to YSRCP’s Alla Ramakrishna Reddy in the 2019 elections.
Moreover, the TDP’s prospects were also impacted by the actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan-led Jana Sena Party which contested on its own. In about 30 assembly seats where there was a close competition between the TDP and YSRCP, its candidates got anything between 3,000 to 30,000 odd votes, which tilted the results towards the YSRCP.
In 2014, Kalyan had supported the TDP, which had an alliance with the BJP. This partnership broke in March 2018, shortly after which Kalyan began criticizing Naidu and announced his decision to contest the elections in an alliance with Left parties and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Kalyan is believed to have the support of the numerically strong Kapu community in Andhra Pradesh, which is high in numbers especially in the East and West Godavari districts. He is credited by analysts in helping Naidu sweep most of the assembly seats in the 2014 polls.
“Naidu’s health might not permit him to take up major activities like before and the party will soon decide on how and when to launch Lokesh. He was taking care of the TDP’s social media earlier given his IT background, but he cannot keep doing that alone. Moreover, once our party chief is back, we will fully analyse, at the booth level, as to what went wrong in the elections," said the TDP leader.
Lokesh does not have a great performance record so far, said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
“TDP insiders say that Lokesh was involved in a lot of the decision making, but externally it appeared that Naidu alone was calling the shots. If that is true, maybe Lokesh has some mettle in him. However, he will have to show that he is a worthy successor. The TDP needs a dynamic leadership that can take on Jagan, who is younger than Naidu" he said.