A new padayatra begins in Andhra Pradesh
By G Krishna Mohan Rao*
New Delhi: After Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra, yet another scion of a political family, Nara Lokesh, who is the son of Nara Chandrababu Naidu and general secretary of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), has embarked on a padayatra (foot march) amidst tremendous support and fanfare.
While Rahul’s padayatra is 3570 km long, Lokesh’s would be 4,000 km long. The latter launched his padayatra, a new mass contact programme, at Kuppam in the Chittoor district on January 27, 2023. The 40-year-old is being groomed in the TDP, as the next-generation leader.
Lokesh is currently a member of the Legislative Council and unsuccessfully contested for assembly in the 2019 elections. He made his political debut In 2017 as an MLC and later he was made a minister in Chandrababu Naidu’s cabinet for IT and Electronics. He is also the grandson of TDP founder N T Rama Rao. Meticulously planned padayatra is expected to cover 125 assembly constituencies in 400 days. Before commencing his marathon foot march, accompanied by a large number of TDP workers, Nara Lokesh offered prayers at a local temple, church and mosque. The TDP, of late, has been struggling to come back to power in Andhra Pradesh.
According to party sources, the foot march titled ‘Yuva Gulam’ ( voice of youth) has been designed so that Lokesh will cover the entire state, focusing on selected 125 constituencies during his more than a-year-long padayatra from Kuppam to Ichapuram. The TDP leadership expects that his padayatra will galvanise the party cadres and revive its fortunes in the run-up to the 2024 assembly polls in the state. Being the main opposition party in the state, the TDP with a huge mass base would be monolingual to the cadres as the padayatra picks up momentum, party sources said. Meanwhile, the political buzz in the state is that the ruling Jagan Mohan Reddy’s regime may go for early polls in December this year.
On the other side, the TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu, who had been the chief minister for 15 years, is already crisscrossing the state, with massive public rallies, attacking the Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) government led by chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy. There is totally surcharged atmosphere between these two rival parties and witness pitched battles every day between the cadres of both parties. Before the padayatra, in his public meeting yesterday, Lokesh was highly critical of Jagan Mohan Reddy’s regime. The young leader stated that this is not a padayatra, but a platform for the youth to fight against the present government’s policies.
Lokesh charged that the Jagan Reddy regime witnessed the withdrawal of investments by several companies and thus depriving the Andhra Pradesh youth of job opportunities. He said that soon his party will come out with a single-page manifesto for the youth. “As a minister for IT and Electronics, I created 40,000 new jobs. What has Jagan Reddy done? Nothing. during the past three years and eight months, Jagan Reddy took back the state by 67 years. Farmers and women employees are all victims of this government,” he said.
Earlier, to celebrate the beginning of padayatra, the TDP leaders and activists from all over the state gathered at the public meeting in Kuppam town. It is reported that more than 50,000 activists along with TDP president K Achchennaidu and around 400 senior party leaders are seen at the launching of the padayatra. On the other hand, the Jagan Reddy regime is well entrenched with populist programmes of ‘Nav Ratnas’ and gearing up its cadres to take on the padayatra. Both the national parties — the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party— are ostensibly in a helpless situation with both the regional parties not leaving any space for them.