Nara Lokesh happens to be at present one of the leading political leaders of the South Indian Telugu States – ‘Andhra Pradesh and Telangana’ on behalf of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). Between the two Telugu States – only within Andhra Pradesh, Nara Lokesh is popular at present due to various factors, like; TDP being in government power, TDP’s leading caste base emanating from this region (Kamma caste), etc. While describing Nara Lokesh, a superlative in the form of ‘popular leader’ is used. This superlative phrase should be understood in a careful manner.
The superlative phrase ‘popular leader’ usually denotes having a mass base and ‘presence of popularity’ of a political leader among the people. But, while understanding Nara Lokesh at present, he should not be (mis)understood in such a manner. The superlative phrase ‘popular leader’ should be understood in relation to Nara Lokesh as having popularity only within his own political party, i.e., TDP.
In Indian politics, a few are recognised as ‘popular’ based on certain qualities, like; from family lineage background, a prominent position held by a particular person/family, close proximity to the political power corridor, etc. From this perspective Nara Lokesh popularity should be understood; but not from ‘mass political popularity’ perspective!
Nara Lokesh’s grand-father Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (NTR) was a famous Tollywood film star and later during second innings of his life, NTR entered into politics by establishing the TDP in the first half duration of the 1980’s. Surprisingly, within a few months after the establishment of the TDP; NTR became Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh on behalf of the TDP, by ousting the then ‘single dominant political player – Indian National Congress’ (INC). Since then, TDP is recognised as a political party having leadership leaning towards the Kamma caste! And, Backward Classes (BC’s) are considered to be another major chunk of vote bank to this party.
In August 1995 NTR’s youngest son-in-law Nara Chandrababu Naidu captured the leadership position of TDP and Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh position, successfully by ousting NTR through a political coup. Till then NTR was continuing in those two positions. Since then, Nara Chandrababu Naidu has been continuing as the President of the TDP, unabatedly. And Naidu also able to become the Chief Minister on behalf of TDP, as and when a chance emerges through a democratic electoral process.
Unable to bear this bitter humiliation from his son-in-law Nara Chandrababu Naidu, his family members and his party-men; NTR finally passed away in January 1996. All this at another level indicates that for more than three decades, for now, the leadership of the TDP rested only with a single community, i.e., Kamma, and that too in particular with two individuals, i.e., NTR and Nara Chandrababu Naidu.
Nara Lokesh happens to be the only biological son of Nara Chandrababu Naidu. Nara Chandrababu Naidu had his life beginning from a middle-class Rayalaseema region (Chittoor District) Kamma family background. His political leanings were observed primarily from his student politics onwards, at University range. It was widely reported across the Telugu region that he inherited only two acres of agricultural land from his father. Though he had such a middle-class family background, surprisingly, he was successful enough to marry a rich and popular NTR’s daughter.
As per various informal sources, it was reported that though Nara Chandrababu Naidu had his humble beginnings from a middle-class family background, by the time he married NTR’s daughter he was rich enough!! But, it was not clear to the public how he became a rich person by that time!!??
All this indicates that Nara Lokesh inherited a ‘popular film and political family background’. As a continuing measure to keep such a close family tie-up and knit, Nara Lokesh was also married to his own uncle Nandamuri Balakrishna’s daughter. Professionally Nara Lokesh can be observed as a management professional due to his educational background. After completion of his studies, he also looked after his father’s established dairy farm ‘Heritage Foods’. Unlike his father Nara Chandrababu Naidu, Nara Lokesh is not observed as passionate enough having political ambitious goals and targets, by critics.
After having a brief stint in family business activities, Nara Lokesh was slowly inducted into TDP politics since 2009 election time onwards, by his father Naidu. This indicates that Lokesh is closely following the (suggested, laid and/or showed) footsteps of his father without revealing and establishing his own mark in any domain, so far; first by looking after family business and second by entering into politics through (family) TDP.
During 2009 election time TDP faced immense difficulty in three forms. They are in the following manner:[i]
- TDP was seen and regarded as a pro-market liberalisation (neo-liberal economic policies inclined) party, without looking after the welfare of the people. Nara Chandrababu Naidu’s Chief Ministerial tenure during 1995-2004 was the prime reason for the development of such a view.[ii]
- TDP started to face an immense sub-regional challenge since 2001 onwards from a newly established party – Telangana Rastra Samithi (TRS), in the Telangana region.
- In August 2008, keeping in view the scheduled 2009 elections, Tollywood famous star and Kapu caste’s well admirer Chiranjeevi launched his own political party and named it as Praja Rajyam Party (TDP). This step also started to have a political blow in a few regions of the Coastal Andhra Pradesh districts, primarily!!
These factors made TDP Chief Nara Chandrababu Naidu be cautious during this 2009 election time and accordingly, he took a few corrective steps in various modes, like;
- By forming a grand political alliance consisting of TDP – Communist Parties & TRS (pre-poll alliance).
- In order to counter film glamour of the PRP and Chiranjeevi, he even made his Kamma family film heroes venture into politics. As a result, his brother-in-law Nandamuri Balakrishna and his nephew Junior Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (Jr NTR) campaigned for the TDP during this election.[iii]
During this 2009 election time, as per various reports, the political leanings of Nara Lokesh started. This indicates, at some level that in addition to his regular Heritage business tasks Lokesh also started to look after the activities of the TDP on a slow mode. Though Chandrababu Naidu, Nandamuri Balakrishna and Jr NTR participated vigorously in the electoral campaign of TDP during this election season, Nara Lokesh was not seen prominently in the electoral campaign process and even in the prominent political activities.
But, during this election time, in order to erase the pro-neo-liberal economic policies brand to his leadership and his party, Nara Chandrababu Naidu started to show that his party under his leadership was inclining towards ‘welfare measures for the betterment of the people’.
As a sequential measure towards a process of brand image build-up (trustworthy leadership promise), Chandrababu Naidu announced an innovative programme as part of the electoral manifesto. This electoral promise was related to ‘Direct-Cash-Transfer’ scheme to the unemployed youth. As per this promise, a certain amount of monthly income would be directly deposited into unemployed youth’s account every month by the Government of Andhra Pradesh, if the TDP or its pre-poll alliance was voted to power, primarily the former.
Interestingly, Nara Chandrababu Naidu gave this scheme’s credit to this son Nara Lokesh. By crediting so, Nara Chandrababu Naidu started to project his son Lokesh as an intellectual, who is well educated from a foreign university. But, the political critics observed that Nara Chandrababu Naidu was giving such a credit to his son Lokesh, in order to keep in low/balance/undermine the rising popularity of his nephew Jr NTR in the electoral campaign battle!! Both Jr NTR and Nara Lokesh belong to near age group.
The proved oratory skills of Jr NTR during election campaign made a few to recognise and comment that the TDP may go under the leadership of Jr NTR in near future. Around such a time, Nara Chandrababu Naidu started to project his son Nara Lokesh as an intellectual doing ground-work for TDP, though not in the forefront of the political campaign!!
In addition to this, at various other points of time, Nara Chandrababu Naidu also said that his son Nara Lokesh had good intellect since his childhood. In order to prove and establish such a view, later-on Naidu used to say now and then; that during 1990’s when he got chance to become the Prime Minister of India, on behalf of the National Front, his son Lokesh advised him not to take up that position!!
The ultimate result of the 2009 election was bitter to almost all the political parties contested, the ‘Mahakutami – TDP-CPI-CPIM-TRS’ (TDP forged) ‘Grand alliance’ failed to captured political power. The INC under the leadership of YSR won the election with a near margin and formed the government in Andhra Pradesh for a second consecutive term. The PRP and TRS were also not satisfied with their final electoral performance.
After 2009 election, in the due process of time, Nara Lokesh’s wife – Nara Brahmani started to look after the affairs of the Heritage Group. It should be understood, that in addition to other family members, like; Lokesh and Lokesh Mother, Brahmani also started looking after the affairs of the Heritage Group. And, Nara Chandrababu Naidu too coordinates the activities of the Heritage Group as Chief promoter, though not revealed and acknowledged publicly at any point in time. Lokesh’s wife Brahmani is also professionally inclined towards Management dimension, by virtue of her higher educational background.
Slowly, Nara Lokesh started to get promoted in TDP internal events like during annual ‘Mahanadu’, etc. Same-time, it was also ‘prominently proved and reported publicly’ that Jr NTR was aspiring too much in TDP’s leadership category. As a result of such media publicity and more or due to other undisclosed reasons Jr NTR started to distance himself from TDP, without openly addressing the levelled allegations against him.
Nara Lokesh started to gain information and control over the party in a slow mode by working under the guidance, advice and leadership of his father. Lokesh so far failed to prove his prime political leadership qualities. But, either Lokesh or/and his father may not accept such a comment, observation and view.
After 2014 elections Lokesh started to occupy centre stage in Andhra Pradesh politics; because TDP was able to capture political power after 2014 election results declaration. This electoral result also coincided with the bifurcation of existing Andhra Pradesh, which existed since 1956 into ‘(residual) Andhra Pradesh and the Telangana States’. In the Telangana region, TDP’s political prospectus blinked considerably, due to an intensified challenge from the TRS since November 2009 onwards.
Due to Nara Chandrababu’s age factor, TDP’s next leadership was projected as inclining towards Nara Lokesh direction. Nara Lokesh was also slowly promoted and elevated in various levels within the party and government since then. Lokesh was also made as the General Secretary of TDP. He was also praised and elevated much in annual TDP’s ‘Mahanadu’ event, by other leaders, under the prominent view and guidance of Nara Chandrababu Naidu.
Most importantly, after 2014 elections, Nara Lokesh became a ‘noted popular person’ among the TDP ranks and files, due to the position he held, primarily. Since TDP was in political power holding Government of Andhra Pradesh charge, the significance of Lokesh is realised much by various quarters mostly within the TDP, to gain proximity to the power and to gain required ‘sanctions’ in various modes. In the second part after 2014 elections, in 2017 Lokesh was also inducted into the Council of Minister’s category headed by his father Nara Chandrababu Naidu as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister. For this purpose, he was made as a Member of Legislative Council (MLC), in order to continue in the Ministerial position, unabatedly for required tenure.
Since 2014 onwards the opposition party in Andhra Pradesh politics ‘Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party’ (YSRCP) highlighted much Nara Lokesh in various modes, as head of corruption channel to the TDP headed Government of Andhra Pradesh, unsuitable to politics, as a political comedy piece, etc. Towards this end, the YSRCP and its associated formal and informal channels and wings started to promote Nara Lokesh in ill-light as a damaging and dangerous person to the prospects of Andhra Pradesh politics and development.
In this process, Lokesh was much highlighted in social media in negative modes, especially in serious political comedy style. At times, the projections of the opposition YSRCP and other views against Lokesh also resembles to be genuine – and gave strong projection that Lokesh doesn’t deserve to be a ‘politician’ or Minister in the Andhra Pradesh Government!! Now and then, TDP leadership and cadre is also having a difficult time to negate the ill-motivated campaign against their leader – Lokesh, due to genuinely involved criticism, which is presented and promoted in different digital formats, primarily!!
Sadly, previously, the TDP under Nara Chandrababu Naidu leadership upto 2014 used to project a few persons either directly or indirectly under ill mode, like; YSR, Rahul Gandhi, Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, etc. At present, Nara Chandrababu Naidu is facing the same critique style against his son Lokesh, in a more intensified manner. But, both Lokesh and Nara Chandrababu Naidu are unable to escape such critical damaging campaign, mainly Lokesh!!
All this indicates that so far Nara Lokesh failed to emerge as a strong individual leader on the political scene of Telugu States, particularly in the Andhra Pradesh domain. He is able to continue, so far, as a leader of the TDP based on his family political lineage! A leader should be able to grab potential (political) opportunity or have the ability to create potential (political) leadership necessity, particular to his/her projected vision.
When seen from this perspective, Nara Chandrababu Naidu was successful enough in both ways; first he was able to grab opportunity of TDP leadership and Andhra Pradesh Chief Ministerial position from his father-in-law NTR (though in a cunning manner) and later he was able to project himself as a better visionary leader in various modes by highlighting his vision inclined towards creation of ‘Swarna Andhra Pradesh’, etc., especially during 1995-2004. But, Naidu’s political leanings started since 1970’s as a student leader. Since then, he had been involved in Andhra Pradesh political process in various modes, ultimately came to prime lime-light by ousting NTR in 1995.
As of now, it appears that Lokesh is following the footsteps of his father. But, in politics, a leader can follow in the footsteps of a leader only for a certain duration. Ultimately, he/she has to emerge successfully on the political scene. As of now, it appears that Lokesh is yet to develop a lot of political knowledge, information and requires guidance too. Some qualities come with genuine interest. But, Lokesh is unable to project even a few basic leadership qualities and got exposed publicly, on many occasions. Though TDP ranks and files are at present rallying behind Nara Lokesh and projecting him as their popular leader; it would be suspicious and dangerous to believe such a projection. At present, such a popular projection is projected due to Lokesh’s proximity to the political corridor.
Even Lokesh and his family members’ wishes to carry forward popular projected projection because of their advantaged position in TDP and Government! And, they too knew well that the present popular projection is not genuine in nature and may lose boost, particularly if political prospects turn the other side, in disadvantageous to them! Yet, they want to continue and enjoy this political game. While continuing the present political game, they wish to be successful in future too, based on ‘acquired resources’. But, politics is a dynamic discourse. It creates its own leaders!! All aspirants may not continue in the political leadership discourse. Political history, even democratic history is a clear testimony to such a view. Anyhow, we have to wait and see how Nara Lokesh’s political prospectus turns in due course of time. How can he steam in political current is yet to be seen; in future, especially on his own as a leading leader of TDP. Or will he remain as a subordinated leader within TDP or how other dimensions may unfold!!??
[i] Some of the above factors were even common to other political players too. But, I am dealing specifically in relation to TDP only, at present!
[ii] As a counter to such a position, the INC under the leadership of Y S Rajashekara Reddy (YSR) at Andhra Pradesh level showed a welfare-oriented path during 2004-2009. YSR was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh during 2004-2009. Even as an opposition party against the TDP, during 1995-2004 the INC also critiqued bitterly TDP in relation to neo-liberal economic policies inclination and more. But, in India, the neo-liberal economic direction started only with the INC since 1990’s under P V Narasimha Rao’s Prime Ministerial tenure!!) [Discussing political parties’ double standards and more on neo-liberal economic policies inclination is beyond the scope of this article].
[iii] On the other side a host of film personalities from Chiranjeevi’s family background like his brother, son, nephew, etc., in addition to Chiranjeevi participated seriously in the electoral campaign.