The Telegraph
Saturday , April 26 , 2014
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Enter the son in Desam campaign

At Telugu Desam Party rallies in Telangana and Seemandhra, crowds are getting used to a young man in shirt and trousers who delivers fiery speeches in fluent Telugu, peppered with name-calling.

Meet Nara Lokesh, 31, the Stanford-educated and World Bank-trained son of Chandrababu Naidu whose entry into the Desam last May marked the beginning of dynasty politics in the party.

But Naidu seems to have long-term plans for his son and has not given him any senior party post immediately. He has also held the young man back from contesting these polls.

“Naidu believes that Lokesh can learn a lot if he confines himself to campaigning hard for Desam candidates, thus also winning their confidence, and looking into party work for now,” a party insider said.

So, along with his father and father-in-law Nandamuri Balakrishna — the actor-politician son of N.T. Rama Rao who is a party candidate — Lokesh has emerged a star campaigner for Desam and BJP nominees.

Unlike some other western-educated political scions, Lokesh is a brilliant speaker in his mother tongue. Like his father, he wears western clothes but is a far more aggressive speaker, in language, content and style.

He came into national spotlight this week when his motorcade was pelted with stones, vegetables and beer bottles by Telangana Rashtra Samiti activists at Pebbiar, about 156km from Hyderabad.

“Before the attack, Lokesh was little-known outside Andhra Pradesh; now almost every national leader knows about him,” said B. Mallaiah Yadav, a Desam candidate in Telangana.

This is Lokesh’s second stint at electioneering. In 2009, he had campaigned for his father in Kuppam, Naidu’s Assembly constituency since 1989.

He had immediately made a mark by promising a then innovative scheme — direct online subsidy transfer to farmers — and symbolically distributed dummy ATM cards among crowds.

A proud Naidu now claims that the UPA government’s direct cash transfer scheme “is just a copy of Lokesh’s innovation”.

B. Gopalakrishna Reddy, Desam leader from Chittoor, claimed that Lokesh was “chief minister material” and could well sit on the chair in Seemandhra in future if Naidu chose to move to Parliament for a national role.

For now, Lokesh, who had stayed away from politics for more than three years after his 2009 electioneering, has become the Desam’s “youth face”.

It was in October 2012, when Naidu embarked on his six-month padayatra across the state, that the young man began taking an interest in backroom party work. In effect, he was his father’s informal representative in the state capital.

Initially, many in the party saw him as an imposition from the top and kept their distance. But Lokesh slowly built a rapport with both senior and junior party leaders.

A month after Naidu returned to Hyderabad in April last year, Lokesh was inducted into the party. He has since been participating in youth conventions at university campuses and addressing the party’s youth wings in district towns.

“Lokesh has found acceptance among the mobile and computer-savvy young crowds,” said Kambhampati Rammohan Rao, Naidu’s campaign manager.

Speaking to The Telegraph at Medchal in Ranga Reddy district, Lokesh said: “The BJP-TDP alliance is a win-win combination. Modi’s impact, coupled with Chandrababu Naidu’s credibility as a great administrator, makes for a winning combination.”

Lokesh is a vice-president in his father’s Heritage Group of companies. He had sometime ago launched a TV news channel with two techie friends but then got out of it. His efforts to start a web-based TV channel for the party too flopped.

The Desam’s e-paper, launched in Telugu to highlight party activities, is a Lokesh brainchild, Desam office manager T.D. Janardhan said.