Amaravati/Lucknow: Lokesh Naidu, son of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, has taken oath as Member of AP Legislative Council on Thursday. He will be inducted into the Cabinet in a couple of days, probably on April 2. Lokesh had to make a lot of effort to pronounce the oath in Telugu. He could not say ‘saarva bhoumatyam’ properly.
This apart, there are many similarities between Lokesh and Akhilesh on one hand and between TDP and SP on the other. Can Lokesh do in 2019 what Akhilesh did in 2012?
Let us see under what circumstances Akhilesh became chief minister of the most populous state in the country more than five years ago. He spearheaded the election campaign in 2012 and was anointed chief minister by his doting father Mulayam Singh Yadav. The patriarch of Samajwadi Party (SP) was the supreme leader who was chief minister for three times. After winning 220 out of 403 seats in UP Assembly in 2012 elections, Mulayam could have taken oath as CM for the fourth time had he wanted. But a combination of love for his son, generosity and personal ambition made Mulayam Singh Yadav to hand over the reins of government to Akhilesh Yadav who was barely 38-year old. However, Mulayam had kept the party with him as its national president. At the time of appointing his beloved son who is educated and modern minded, Mulayam was nursing the ambition of becoming prime minister. In fact, he wanted to keep himself free to take national mantle while son rules from Lucknow. At that point in time, the UPA was on the decline what with a plethora of scandals from 2G to Coal. Narendra Modi was not in the picture even remotely. He was facing allegations of presiding over the pogrom in which more than a thousand Muslims were killed.
The communal riots in the wake of Godhra train sabotage was the hot topic in those days as the CBI was in hot pursuit of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. Nobody thought Mohan Bhagawathi, the RSS chieftain, would dump Lal Krishna Advani, the tallest BJP leader, and Sushma Swaraj, a claimant to the highest office, and then go on making Modi the prime ministerial face of the BJP. Mulayam thought he had fair chances of leading a third alternative if he could manage to win fifty percent of the 80 Lok Sabha seats from UP in 2014 general elections. It was not an unrealistic hope. UPA led by the Congress was facing double incumbency factor. BJP was not an inspiring alternative at that time.
There was a talk in political circles that a person of Mulayam Singh’s standing could lead the secular front. It is now history that Mulayam’s hopes were dashed with the tsunami created by Narendra Modi’s magnificent campaign and historic win. The SP could bag only five seats and the Congress just two from UP. The insult on the injury inflicted on the senior most Socialist leader was the revolt by Akhilesh Yadav weeks before 2017 UP Assembly election. The second tsunami caused by Modi who created a saffron wave, basing on which Yogi Adityanath became chief minister, is again part of recent history.
What are the takeaways for AP from the UP experience? What are the commonalities? What are the dissimilarities?
Like Mulayam, Chandrababu Naidu is the supreme leader of Telugu Desam Party (TDP). He has also taken oath as chief minister for the third time in June 2014. Lokesh, like Akhilesh, is foreign educated and modern minded. Lokesh is the undisputed heir of Chandrababu and hence the TDP. The flip side is he has no headache that Akhilesh had to deal with. Akhilesh has an uncle, Shivpal Yadav, who is a capable, assertive and ambitious. He was party manager and the blue-eyed boy of Mulayam Singh. Lokesh’s uncle Nara Ramamurthy Naidu, on the other hand, is not in the picture. He is said to have been suffered from some emotional setback. Naidu’s wife Bhuvaneshwari is hale and healthy looking after family business, Heritage. There is no Sandhya Gupta in Chandrababu Naidu’s life. Lokesh has no Azam Khan in his party to contend with. No Amar Singh and Jayaprada either. Senior Naidu kept tight leash over the party without allowing any one to grow and stake a claim to any position. The sole arbitrator in the TDP is Chandrababu Naidu. He is the proprietor.
Naidu has no ambition to become prime minister. He had opportunity twice in the second half of the turbulent 1990s to claim the top mantle. As convenor of National Front he played an important role in making Gujral the PM. He had no ambition at that time although there was an opportunity. Even if he has ambition now, there is no opportunity with Modi sitting pretty looking unbeatable even in 2019. Another point of dissimilarity is that Naidu cannot hope to achieve in 2019 what Mulayam did in 2012. Then Mulayam was riding anti-Mayawati wave. Mayawati’s five years in office created a strong anti-incumbency sentiment that helped SP to sweep the polls. In the case of Naidu, he will have to contend with his own anti-incumbency factor beside the aggressive YSRCP led by a young YS Jagan Mohan Reddy who resembles Akhilesh. Which means Lokesh can now become a minister and gain experience for two years before plunging into election campaign. Whether Naidu will give a major role in the campaign to Lokesh for 2019 elections like Mulayam did in 2012 is a moot point.
If some extraordinary developments or situations or alliances help TDP to win again in the next elections, will Naidu hand over the mantle to his son who will be 37 by then and keep the party with him? Can Naidu keep away from CM’s chair and entrust the responsibility to his son. Would Naidu who does not trust anyone keep faith in his son? In case Naidu refuses to yield, can Lokesh do to his father what Naidu did to hfl his father-in-law ( NTR, Grandfather of Lokesh) in 1995 or at least what Lokesh did to his father in 2017? Does Lokesh have the administrative capabilities and skills to take the gparty with him that Lokesh exhibited in ample measure? Whatever may the RJY future hold for him, Lokesh will be watched very closely from today.