Kommineni Srinivasa Rao
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Nara Chandabrababu Naidu seems to be slipping into a mode of self-defence with each passing day. During the course of his electioneering in AP and Telangana, PM Modi criticized both the chief ministers sharply, accusing KCR of being superstitious and Chandrababu of being blinded by love for his son, apart from charges of corruption. Modi added that Chandrababu Naidu had developed a habit of uttering falsehoods. While KCR’s response does not evoke much interest because he has only recently won the assembly elections in Telangana by a huge majority, Chandrababu finds himself in a different situation altogether. PM Modi berated the TDP chief in a way which would dent his image. He said that the AP CM was indulging in politics driven by a blind love for his son Nara Lokesh.
Meanwhile, YSR Congress Party president YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has been firing direct questions at Chandrababu Naidu. For instance, he asked the AP CM as to who was given security in the state barring Nara Lokesh. Meanwhile, Dr YSR’s daughter and YS Jagan’s sister Sharmila has been campaigning for the YSRCP and has fired salvos at Chandrababu and Lokesh. She questioned the manner in which three portfolios were given to Nara Lokesh. Sharmila pointed out that Lokesh had ignored Mangalagiri for five years and now claims that he would work for its development. The most interesting aspect of Sharmila’s campaign is the new slogan with which she runs her electioneering, Bye Bye Babu…Bye Bye Pappu. If the question were to be asked as to whether it is appropriate to call Lokesh publicly, the answer would be that it is Chandrababu and his son who are responsible for this state of affairs. It was they who lowered the level of public discourse and leveled wild allegations against the YSRCP chief. They continue to do so which is why their utterances provoke equally sharp responses.
One thing is very clear. For five years, Chandrababu has done little except promote Nara Lokesh in a big way. No one would have taken exception to Lokesh making his political debut had he contested the elections in 2014. Instead, Chandrababu Naidu made his son an MLC after coming to power and then assigned him three important portfolios. Soon after this, all TDP leaders started lavishing praise on Nara Lokesh. If Lokesh had been a competent minister, he would have earned recognition automatically. However, he is now being jockeyed into high positions. Lokesh's foot in the mouth disorder has proved to be a major embarrassment for the TDP. His bloopers have earned him notoriety on social media. Moreover, photographs of Lokesh having a good time with female friends when he was in the US have gone viral. The point is that had Nara Lokesh not been a public figure, it would have been of no interest to anybody. By the same token, people do not spare those in the public eye. In a way, this is something which Chandrababu himself has preached and practiced. The general impression people have is that Chandrababu is struggling to shield his son from media glare. On another note, Lokesh has not been able to give up his MLC position while contesting for the assembly from Mangalagiri. Like his cabinet colleague Somireddy, Chandramohan Reddy or another TDP leader Ramasubba Reddy could. This has led to criticism of the TDP supremo's son. While it is true that many politicians in our democratic set up try to encourage their sons to enter politics, those who have some natural competence avail themselves of the opportunity, others fail. One thing is for sure. There is hardly a leader whose image has been badly bruised because of his son's dumbness. Chandrababu and Lokesh seem to enjoy this dubious distinction and in all likelihood the outcome of the elections will bear this true.