A son comes of age: Jr Chandrababu Naidu makes a splash with ‘small’ battles

A son comes of age: Jr Chandrababu Naidu makes a splash with ‘small’ battles

India News

“We are not cowards to run away if you throw stones. We are the Telugu Desam Party, and YSRCP leaders should know that they cannot scare us,’’ said an incensed Nara Lokesh Naidu, Telugu Desam Party’s General Secretary, holding up a stone that was thrown at him allegedly by workers of the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) Thursday evening.

Lokesh and other TDP members were allegedly pelted with stones while they were visiting the family of a woman who was gangraped and murdered on Wednesday in Guntur district.

With the incident and Lokesh’s dramatic response casting a spotlight on the gangrape, Social Welfare Minister M Nagarjuna and other YSRCP leaders rushed to meet the victim and announced a financial aid of Rs 10 lakh to the family.

Many in the TDP say the incident, among many others in recent months, are proof that Lokesh, son of TDP chief and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, has finally emerged from his father’s shadow.

In recent months, a visible and vocal Lokesh, 39, has been leading the charge against the ruling YSRCP government on various issues. Over the last few months, the state government has filed 11 FIRs against him, the most recent being on April 17, at Kalyandurg in Anantapur district, “for creating disturbance and instigating people against the police”. While he has not been arrested in any of the cases, TDP leaders proudly talk of the cases as an indication that he is where he should be –in the centre of political action.

Lokesh had also recently led protests against spurious and cheap liquor, putting the state government on the back foot. Much to the chagrin of ruling party MLAs, he and other TDP leaders had even taken out a rally near the AP Assembly during which liquor was poured on a photo of the CM.

A few days ago, when a father was forced to carry the body of his son on a motorcycle from a hospital in Tirupati as ambulance drivers quoted exorbitant fees, Lokesh raised a furore and said medical care services had collapsed in the state under Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s watch.

The state government swung into action, issued a show cause notice to the hospital superintendent and arrested a few ambulance drivers. A day later, the Chief Minister asked officials to ensure such incidents do not occur again. “Even if few, such incidents will tarnish the image of the government,’’ he said.

Party leaders say Lokesh has been successful in highlighting seemingly “small incidents’’ but which have ended up riling the ruling party — from announcing the TDP’s support to protesting teachers and taunting the CM about hiding behind ‘barbed wire fences’’ to taking up the cause of revenue department officials, saying they are being threatened by illegal sand mining mafias.

Lokesh had also led protests against gambling dens and launched a shrill-pitched campaign against a “casino’’ that was allegedly being run at a convention hall owned by Kodali Venkateshwara Rao. The former civil supplies minister was eventually dropped from the Cabinet during the recent mid-term reshuffle.

Another instance when Lokesh was in the limelight was when he accused Women and Child Welfare Minister Usha Sricharan of being responsible for the death of an infant old at Kalyandurg in Anantapur, allegedly after the vehicle in which she was being taken to hospital was held up by police who were regulating traffic to allow a victory procession of the newly appointed minister. Police dismissed the allegation and filed an FIR against Lokesh.

Lokesh, who was IT Minister, is also credited with launching the TDP’s digital and paperless membership drive.

Critics of Lokesh, both within the party and outside, say while these issues have helped him stay in the spotlight, he still has a long way to go, with some saying he is not quite in the politician’s mould and that he is a product of some slick packaging by the senior Naidu.

“He has to work on his image to be projected as a leader of the masses. He needs to work on his crowd-pulling capabilities… Beyond the usual rhetoric, he needs to have the ability to articulate in-depth his stand as well as that of the party,” a TDP leader said.

They point to how Lokesh is yet to win an election on his own. In 2017, he was nominated to the Legislative Council and inducted into the Cabinet at IT, Panchayati Raj and Rural Development Minister. In May 2019, in his maiden attempt, he contested from Mangalagiri Assembly Constituency but lost to the YSRCP’s A Ramakrishna Reddy by a margin of 5,337 votes.

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