In India almost all political parties are family run businesses, maybe with the exception of the left and the right. Of course, Congress may be the biggest business empire, but others are not too far behind. Not only Jawaharlal Nehru, state leaders from the Abdullahs to Karunandhi, everyone had established their political empires immediately after independence. Some people who entered into politics at other points of time too immediately turned politics into family businesses.
As dynasty politics was already accepted as the only practical way of doing the business of politics by all and sundry, it is no wonder that many families have started cementing their hold on their areas of influence. Though it is not expected that new generation be as efficient and popular as the one who established the party, at least they are expected to be sufficiently efficient to carry forward the legacy.
The latest promotion in dynastic politics is of Nara Lokesh, s/o Chandrababu Naidu as cabinet minister. Unlike his father, who was already a minister even before Telugu Desam party came into existence, Lokesh was born into the party. While Chandrababu Naidu, as a Congress MLA was a minister in T. Anjaiah’s cabinet at the young age of 28, Lokesh could become minister at 34 only, despite being considered by many in the party as the successor to Chandrababu.
Well, he has many qualifications like a degree in management from Stanford and experience of working with the likes of GE and Daimler, though he never worked for long. Perhaps, from his own experience of being in the side lines for long time, Chandrababu made Lokesh to learn the intricacies of politics by working for many years, for the party and its youth wing.
To his credit, Lokesh is one of the committee members who made the manifesto to 2009 state elections, in which they proposed ‘Cash Transfer Scheme’. Congress humiliated him by calling the scheme an ‘ATM without Money’ and as Congress won the elections, the scheme was forgotten. This is where one should admire Congress and learn from it. After three years, Congress started having field trials of the scheme and linked it to Aadhar. As the scheme was giving better results, it was streamlined at a national level. While Congress lost power in Delhi to Modi, who was even a better businessman himself extended the scheme so wide that it became the flagship scheme of the government. The current name to the scheme is ‘Direct Benefit Transfer’ as subsidies are directly credited into bank accounts of beneficiaries. All the while, nobody knew of Lokesh and his Cash Transfer Scheme. But, that is the way politics work.
Given his background and management profile, Lokesh may become good administrator. Whether he can carry forward the political legacy of NTR and Chandrababu is a million dollar question.
If TDP under NTR became the largest opposition withstanding the ‘sympathy wave’ post Indira’s assassination, Chandrababu was the first CM, long before Modi came on to the political scenario, whom US Presidents have visited. He has many firsts to his credits. The unorthodox way TDP pulls out new schemes and implement them with success is only because both Rama Rao and Chandrababu understand ground realities of both politics and administration. While Rama Rao had the charisma of being an actor and had a great hold on Telugu language and diction, Chandrababu was an expert in back room politics with which he covered what he lacked in public speaking.
For Lokesh, he lacks both the public appeal and expertise in hard core politicking. On the other hand, Jagan Mohan Reddy, without much qualifications to talk about emerged as one of the largest political businessman in India during his father’s regime, though the way Jagan does politics is his own violent style. For a politician, one should have a basic trait of sensing which fights to pick up and with whom. This trait is everything that helped Lalu and Mulayam and Karunanidhi and so many others achieve what they have.
Handling the responsibility of the Hyderabad Municipal elections, Lokesh talked much but delivered – not even little, but only one seat. In the elections where even Majlis was pushed back by TRS, TDP should never have made it a prestigious contention, especially in the immediate aftermath of state bifurcation. This exposed the political naivety of Lokesh when he returned home a failed leader, who made big statements. Of course, a section of political commentators call him Rahul Gandh of Andhra Pradesh.
The history of TDP in Andhra was always marred with caste based politics and post truncation of state, the party is witnessing a confusion where they stand. Caste politics exists in every state of India, with local castes playing their role during and after elections. One reason NTR could come to power was the marginalisation of OBCs (except Reddys who control Congress in the state), while all the benefits were provided to SC/STs. If Congress was blamed for running the government with Brahmins and Reddys (and Velamas too in Telangana), NTR was accused of favouring Kammas during his rule, especially the Kapus in the coast feeling they were discriminated against. NTR could win however, due to his charisma. Post NTR, it was difficult for Chandrababu to have all leaders in the party fold. Considering Chandrasekhar Rao, present CM of Telangana was part of his erstwhile cabinet and Mudragada Padmanabham the continuously agitating leader of Kapus was one of NTR loyalists, the future of TDP is going to be tough. Though Congress is almost wiped out in the last elections in both Telugu speaking states, Jagan Mohan Reddy emerged as main opposition to TDP in Andhra Pradesh, despite his links with corruption cases.
Of late, TDP has seen a migration of Reddy leaders from Jagan’s Congress. This has increased the competition for the seats of power that are limited already. Even today’s expansion of cabinet has seen four MLAs of Jagan who crossed over to TDP were made part of cabinet. Immediately two senior ministers who were dropped by Chandrababu have resigned leading to a friction.
It is known that Chandrababu had never mastered the art of politics, but was a better administrator. As of now, with the continuous inductions from Congress and Jagan’s YSR Congress, TDP has lost its own identity. On the other hand, even BJP lost its credibility when the state was not formally given the much touted ‘special status’. Though Chandrababu claims the state got more than what ‘special status’ could give, he fails to release a white paper as demanded by the opposition. The public mood had become so aggressive, Venkaiah Naidu was forced to contest Rajya Sabha elections from Rajastan and not from his home state, while Andhra chose to send Suresh Prabhu from its quota.
Lokesh was intelligent enough to realise that only good work is not sufficient to win elections. Good work shall be supplemented with political acumen and strategy. Leaders who are entrusted with the responsibility to groom Lokesh too are not in fact the correct leaders given their back ground of hard core politicking. Chandrababu could overthrew NTR only because he had the party cadre behind him, apart from Ashok Gajpati Raju. What he lacked in political expertise, Chandrababu could cover with, by providing better administration.
As BJP had already lost its chance of establishing itself in the state, Lokesh had to fight with not only Jagan, but even with Pawan Kalyan, whose political moods vary like monsoons. And there is a constant threat of NTR’s sons opposing him, especially the junior NTR, who resembles his grand father. With infighting in TDP started already, Lokesh being part of government will reduce his involvement in party politics. Maybe Chandrababu already evaluated him and considered a failure in politics and so wanted to test in administration. If Lokesh succeeds as a minister, he can relieve his father from the government and let him concentrate on electoral politics. As it is overheard that Chandrababu is now concerned about his winning next elections, may be he wanted to concentrate on politics a bit more and so this induction.
For the state people, they have to bear him like many other hereditary politicians including Jagan. Only chance of a new leader emerging in the current scenario is from a new movement. As of now, even the once ferocious students of Andhra are transformed into reading machines and forgot what they can do, leaving politics to only few people from ruling families.