Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Special Story: The Power Of 'Sons' Rise In Two 'Telugu States'


Nara Lokesh And KT Rama Rao Are Being Aggressively Pushed By Their Dads. But Political Inheritance Apart, The Two Scions Are Like Chalk And Cheese.

When a journalist recently asked him whether son Nara Lokesh would be projected as the chief ministerial candidate in the 2019 elections, Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu shot back:

“Why , what will happen to me?“ In neighbouring Telangana, nobody has asked this question of CM K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) directly but the buzz is that he will migrate to national politics leaving the state to his scion, K T Rama Rao (KTR).

Though KTR started off as information technology and panchayati raj minister in 2014 after the new state was formed, KCR realising that the son was `selling' the state well to potential foreign investors and domestic corporate czars, made him the urban development minister earlier this year even as he continues to handle IT.

A month before handing over urban development to son, KCR publicly announced that KTR was doing well so he was to be given the responsibility of winning the Hyderabad municipal elections for the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).After the party romped to victory, KCR complimented his son and handed him the urban development portfolio. Since Hyderabad constitutes one-third of Telangana, for the TRS, rapid development of the city is a passport to further electoral success.

US-educated KTR who worked in New York for a couple of years is a good orator in English and has pleasing manners. This makes him indis pensable in building good relations not only with investors but also the upwardly mobile, wardly mobile, cosmopolitan middle class. The shrewd KCR realises this and projects his not-quite-40 year old son. Another equally important reason is that before Telangana was formed: KCR's nephew Harish Rao was seen as his first lieutenant. Harish ­at 43 ­is known for his superb organisational abilities and is now the irrigation minister. Many analysts aver that at a later day Harish may stake claim for the throne and to prevent this KCR is empowering his son.

But father's love has not made KCR give a free rein to KTR. “All powers are with KCR and even KTR dare not take liberties with him ­ even at meetings,“ says a Telangana govern ment secretary.

Across the border, Lokesh may not be pro jected as the future CM but his influence in the corridors of power can be felt palpably . He is seen as the guy who influences major policy and all administrative decisions as the backroom boy of the CM. “All major deals have to go through him, his men are posted all over including the CM's office,“ says a senior officer not wanting to be named. Till December 2015, Seethepalli Abheestha, a close friend of Lokesh, used to keep close watch on the administration as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the CM. But public outcry impelled Naidu to sideline him.

But all this has not led to any decline in the influence of the Stanfordreturned Lokesh. On paper, Lokesh, an MBA, is general secretary of the Telugu Desam party and director of Heritage Foods -the milk and vegeta ble vending company managed by his mother. But in reality, he influences everything including important transfers and postings. When the government completed two years, Lokesh was given the task of preparing a score card on the performance of min isters. When Naidu got into pow er in 2014, Lokesh not only advised dad on choice of ministers but also vetted the choice of private secretaries of the ministers. He vetoed some of them much to the chagrin of ministers who could do nothing.

Lokesh's importance does not stem merely from the fact that he is his father's son. Chandrababu cleverly married Lokesh to first cousin Brahmani, the daughter of cine hero Balakrishna, the son of N T Rama Rao. Thus this political matrimonial alliance kept Balakrishna who had begun displaying political ambitions under check. “Lokesh knows the important role that his marriage played in keeping power with his father,“ says a TDP leader. More importantly coming to power after 10 years of opposition, Naidu felt that many of his erstwhile close associates could not be fully trusted anymore.So he started placing faith in his only offspring.

Thus it may be a case of rising sons on both sides of the border but the reason for their ascendancy is dissimilar. That's nothing unusual: because Naidu and KCR are dissimilar and so are their political circumstances. And, of course, the two scions are as different as cheese and chalk: Lokesh is the quintessential backroom boy and KTR, the outgoing extrovert.

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