Ending months of speculation, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu on Wednesday appointed his only son Nara Lokesh as the party’s general secretary, thus making him the virtual no. 2 in the party formed by his father-in-law N.T. Rama Rao in 1982.
The 32-year-old Stanford educated Lokesh has also been included in the 17-member TDP politburo and given charge of the party workers’ welfare fund, a Rs 100 crore fund that takes care of the families of party activists and student wings.
Naidu, while announcing the new office-bearers at the party headquarters, defended the elevation of his son, who had so far not held any formal position in the TDP. “I have made him (Lokesh) the general secretary and politburo member in tune with his services in the past several years. His contributions to party workers’ welfare and his networking with the youth and students’ wings have won him praise,” Naidu said.
Sources in the TDP told The Sunday Guardian that Naidu had secured approval from party seniors like Union minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and AP Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu before going public with his decision, which was cheered by TDP workers who were seen distributing sweets to celebrate Lokesh’s elevation.
Naidu also constituted committees for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh units of the party. Former ministers L. Ramana and K. Kala Venkata Rao, both from the OBC community, have been made the presidents of the Telangana and AP units, respectively. TDP MLA A. Revanth Reddy, who was arrested in the cash-for-vote scam, is the executive president of the Telangana committee.
Naidu is said to have empowered the three TDP general secretaries including Lokesh by limiting the party’s central committee with just 20 members. Telangana and the AP units of the party, however, have 96 and 70 members respectively. “Lokesh is the only general secretary who can monitor the activities of both the states as the other two general secretaries look after their respective states,” a senior leader said, requesting anonymity. Senior leaders Prakash Reddy (from Telangana) and Konakalla Narayana Rao (AP) are the other two general secretaries
Lokesh’s elevation signals the entry of NTR’s third generation into active politics. Naidu, who had joined TDP months after he lost the 1983 AP Assembly elections as a Congress minister, too had been appointed as the general secretary of the party by NTR. Naidu replaced NTR as TDP president and AP Chief Minister on 1 September 1995.
Besides Naidu and Lokesh, one more member of the late NTR family — his elder son and former Rajya Sabha member N. Harikrishna, was included in the politburo. Harikrishna, who had prematurely resigned from Rajya Sabha protesting bifurcation of AP last year, had been sulking that he was sidelined in the party. Naidu, however, kept aside another son of NTR, TDP MLA N. Balakrishna from the party committees.
Lokesh is married to Brahmani, the daughter of Balakrishna, and the couple was blessed with a son, Devansh last year. Lokesh has been acting as the managing director of Heritage Foods, a Naidu family owned retail business which touched a turnover of Rs 900 crore and made a net profit of Rs 33 crore this year. Lokesh is likely to quit his post in Heritage Foods following his formal elevation in the TDP.
Lokesh was at the centre of controversy some time back when it was alleged that his education in the US was funded by scam accused Satyam Ramalinga Raju in early 2000. TDP’s newly appointed president Ramana dismissed the allegations as “baseless charges and lies” when asked by this correspondent about the controversy surrounding Lokesh. “Lokesh is a young leader who can lead the party and mobilse the youth,” he told this newspaper.