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Mahanadu, the annual conference of Telugu Desam Party (TDP), witnessed a dramatic scene in 2014. Young cadres raised slogans demanding party president N Chandrababu Naidu to appoint son Nara Lokesh Naidu the general secretary of the party.
However, the ascension of Lokesh Naidu, 32, was only a matter of formality as he had already been in the thick of party affairs. He not only played a key role in the selection of party candidates in the 2014 elections but also commissioned and monitored election surveys to formulate winning strategies on behalf of the party. The elections drove the TDP back to power after a gap of 10 years in Andhra Pradesh (AP).
At the same Mahanadu, held in the aftermath of the general elections, the party adopted a resolution declaring itself a 'national party' keeping in mind the undivided AP was about to split into two states.
Earlier this week, AP chief minister and party supremo Chandrababu Naidu announced the party's national committee, while appointing Lokesh and two other party functionaries general secretaries. Naidu also appointed two state-level committees for AP and Telangana. As general secretary, Lokesh Naidu becomes an ex-officio member of the party politburo.
An MBA graduate from Stanford University, Lokesh Naidu is the only child of Naidu and Bhuvaneswari, managing director of Rs 2,000-crore Heritage Foods Ltd and daughter of legendary Telugu movie actor and TDP founder N T Rama Rao.
Even while working in the family-promoted Heritage Foods, first as a vice-president of its retail business wing, Lokesh Naidu never confined himself to business affairs. He never hesitated to take on his father's political adversaries and in the same spirit, made critical comments on Twitter against Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhara Rao and YSR Congress president Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy occasionally.
Before joining Heritage, Lokesh Naidu worked in the World Bank as a junior professional associate on several projects such as e-governance capacity building programme for the governments of Ethiopia, South Sudan and Kenya, according to his official profile on the company website.
Before becoming the party's youth wing president, Lokesh Naidu was already looking after the affairs of the N T R Memorial Trust and, later, the party cadre's welfare fund, which helped him build bridges with the machinery at all levels. His involvement in political affairs and his future role in the party was made known to the public when he got the 'cash benefit transfer' scheme incorporated as a prominent electoral promise in the party's election manifesto in 2009 elections.
Chandrababu Naidu, who was chief minister of the undivided AP for nine years, will be 70 by the time the next Assembly elections will be held in 2019. This means a larger role for Lokesh Naidu in years to come. Political observers do not rule out the possibility of the senior Naidu giving his son a role in the government before the 2019 elections.
At the annual general meeting of Heritage Foods on September 24, 2015, Lokesh Naidu was re-appointed director. This indicates he would continue to keep track of both business and politics. His wife, Brahmani, a graduate in business administration from Stanford University, is already an executive director in the company.