Amaravati: Information Technology, Panchayati Raj and Rural Development are the assorted set of portfolios Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu has chosen for his son Nara Lokesh’s political baptism.
In his brief political career, Lokesh has learnt that politics can be unsparing. Even if one is the heir apparent.
Formally inducted into the party in late 2013, it is widely believed that Lokesh took the plunge after his cousin NT Rama Rao Jr decided to focus on films instead.
Back then, the 38-year-old was the executive director of his family-owned Heritage Foods Limited. He took to business after his stint at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford.
Despite a stellar academic record and nearly five years of officially being inducted into TDP, Lokesh is yet to prove his mettle in electoral politics. Adversaries continue to mark the CM’s son for his oratorical skills in mother tongue.
Earlier this year, when his father wished him on his birthday in January, Twitter turned the message into a joke. Naidu called his son a ‘youth icon’, which many said seemed like the young minister tweeting from his father’s account.
Lokesh, however, appears to be nonchalant about the criticism. “I have hit the genetic jackpot but that said, it should not be held against anyone. The party can only give me a chance but it is up to the people to decide. If they don’t think that someone is the right product for Andhra Pradesh, they won’t vote. It’s as simple as that,” Lokesh said.
Earlier this week, in an interaction with journalists, Lokesh asserted he was working to empower gram panchayats, a subject close to his heart. The promise of free WiFi in every gram panchayat by the end of this year is, he claims, on the right track. As IT minister, he is all for using the block-chain method in every district of the state, data for which he says is being given voluntarily by the residents and is ‘secured’ at various levels.
The other subject close to his heart is curbing migration to urban areas. For that to happen, the government has to ensure basic amenities like water, power, sanitation and roads in rural Andhra.
“Our target is to increase household income to at least Rs 10,000 per month. The primary reason for youth migration from rural to urban was lack of opportunities. Standards of urban areas need to be met in rural areas and I’m sure that by 2024, all gram panchayats will get there,” he asserted.
But does he think Andhra has been given a fair shot, also now considering that his father has broken off the alliance with the ruling BJP? “Of course I feel orphaned. It’s only fair that the state gets what was promised. We are not asking for anything more. It doesn’t send out a good message to any state, let alone Andhra Pradesh,” he said.
The young minister said Amaravati, the proposed capital of Andhra Pradesh, was part of Andhra Pradesh’s development story and building it was no joke. “We’re building a city from scratch that costs Rs 40,000 crores. During bifurcation, we didn’t have anything. We didn’t even know where the capital was. It took us eight months to finalise on a location. It’s finally taking shape,” he added.
His father Chandrababu Naidu is the first big NDA ally to have severed ties with the NDA — more than 12 months ahead of the next general elections. This means Naidu, a veteran of coalition politics, has decided to go alone in the next general elections.
The electoral battle, for both state and Centre in the summer of 2019 will be one big challenge for the father-son duo. And an opportunity for Nara Lokesh to find his feet in the fast-shifting sands of national politics.