Lokesh Rises in ‘Sonshine’ State but ‘Cash for Vote’ Scandal Tars Naidu

File photo of Nara Lokesh and his wife. PTI.

File photo of Nara Lokesh and his wife. PTI.

Hyderabad: In a country where so many parties have embraced dynastic politics, none found it unusual when Nara Lokesh began slowly stepping into the shoes of his father, Telugu Desam president N. Chandrababu Naidu. What is noteworthy, however, is the support the son seems to enjoy, if a recent opinion poll is anything to go by.

As many as fifty two per cent of the 37,284 respondents surveyed by Express TV endorsed the emerging leadership of Lokesh, 32, within the TDP. Thirty-eight per cent did not share this perception about the management graduate from Stanford University.

Lokesh holds the rather odd portfolio of head of TDP Workers’ Welfare Fund, whose aim is to retain followers in the party’s fold by covering them with insurance. However, the clout he wields in the party is much greater, as evidenced by his role in the selection of Legislative Council candidates and the way he was sought after by party leaders at the recent Mahanadu, TDP’s annual conclave.

The TV channel survey focused on the performance of the TDP Government in Andhra Pradesh ahead of its first anniversary on June 8. The opinion poll did not spring many surprises as 58% of people expressed satisfaction with the government’s performance, a figure largely in tune with the mandate they gave in the 2014 elections.

Survey done before the cash-for-vote scandal

When it came to rating Naidu’s performance as Chief Minister, the result was almost similar – 56% said they were satisfied and 44% not satisfied. If elections were held today, 53% said they would vote for the TDP-BJP combine and 40% for YSR Congress, leaving Congress way behind with just 5 %. Nearly three-fourths of them did not foresee the prospect of the Congress party emerging as a strong force.

These numbers might have been different had the survey been conducted later than it was — between May 21 and June 2. Chandrababu Naidu’s image has taken a beating the past few days after the arrest of TDP MLA from Telangana A. Revanth Reddy by the Anti-Corruption Bureau in the cash-for-vote scandal on May 31. Reddy is charged with trying to bribe an Anglo-Indian MLA, Elvis Stevenson, to vote for the TDP candidate in the Legislative Council elections.

What has given a unique dimension to the scandal is the videotaped evidence of the rendezvous between Reddy and Stevenson in Hyderabad, when the TDP MLA allegedly paid Rs. 50 lakhs in cash towards a total bribe of Rs. 5 crore. Fifty per cent of the amount (Rs. 2.5 crore) would be taken care of by the `boss’, he allegedly said.

TRS, YSR seek to embarrass Naidu

Whether the sting operation will stand scrutiny in a court of law remains to be seen, but the TRS is milking the issue to the last drop with Telangana Home Minister N. Narasima Reddy accusing Mr. Naidu of being the ‘boss’. “We have tapes of telephonic conversations to prove it”, he said, hinting at implicating the Andhra CM in the bribery case.

It is also a moot question if this scam will cause reverberations in Andhra Pradesh since people of the state have moved on from the pain of bifurcation. But YSR Congress president Jaganmohan Reddy is no mood to let TDP off the hook. He has hitched his bandwagon to Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhara Rao, his bitter rival till last year, by supporting the TRS candidate in the LC elections.

Power stood first in the TDP government’s achievements followed by pensions to the poor and underprivileged, besides the farm loan waiver. This is quite a revelation as the YSR Congress and the Left parties have hauled Naidu over the coals for fudging figures and reducing the loan amount to be waived to Rs. 20,000 crore from the promised sum of Rs. 1 lakh crore.

The survey, interestingly, shows that only 16% of respondents gave top priority to the issue of securing special category status for AP. The TDP is under attack for not doing enough to bring pressure on the Modi government over this issue.

What should cause worry to the TDP, however, is the ‘poor’ rating given by respondents about the plight of farmers in AP. This stands out in contrast to the confidence expressed by 57 % of people that Naidu can fulfill poll promises in the remainder of his four year term. Paradoxically, Naidu himself is veering round to the view that it is next to impossible for his cash-starved Government to implement the promises he made.