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Blood thicker than dynasty

- Naidu pitches son as star campaigner

Hyderabad, Feb. 3: Chandrababu Naidu may be critical of Rahul Gandhi and Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy as dynastic scions but is aggressively promoting son Nara Lokesh and grooming him as his successor in the Telugu Desam.

Nara Lokesh is being pitched as star campaigner for the summer Lok Sabha and Assembly elections and will hit the trail next week with a cycle yatra aimed at wooing youths.

The Stanford-educated 32-year-old is already canvassing for the party on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. “Nara Lokesh’s yatra is part of the Desam’s campaign,” said L.V. Prasad, who heads the party’s media cell.

The cycle odyssey, which seems inspired by Naidu’s marathon padayatra last year against the ruling Congress, will start on February 10. Tirupati is listed as a possible launch site.

Lokesh is likely to cover 30km daily during the cycle run, interacting with youths and addressing Desam conventions to highlight the party’s poll agenda.

Desam leaders are vying to have him in their constituencies. He is likely to criss-cross Pulivendula, the turf of Jaganmohan Reddy and his YSR Congress, heeding a clamour from colleagues.

None of this should be new to Lokesh, who has been addressing campus conventions and events organised by a Desam-affiliated body of software professionals for sometime.

Party leaders said the World Bank-trained professional had proposed a cash transfer scheme for subsidies in Kuppam, his father’s Assembly constituency, during the 2009 campaign, and claimed that a similar plan being implemented by the Congress-led UPA at the Centre was only a “copy”.

“The DCT (direct cash transfer) scheme of the UPA government is just a copy of Lokesh’s project,” said K. Rammohan Rao, a former Desam MP and Naidu confidant.

If Lokesh and his loyalists are warming up for the cycle yatra, some in the Desam fear his promotion as mascot could put a spoke in their wheels.

One leading light sulking is Lokesh’s maternal uncle and NTR’s son Harikrishna. Harikrishna was recently denied a Rajya Sabha nomination.

Harikrishna is also sore that Lokesh is being promoted at the expense of his son, the actor NTR Junior, who had campaigned extensively in 2009. “Although Junior NTR has promised to campaign this time, it seems doubtful,” said Desam leader Varla Rama Rao.