Written off after he lost the Mangalagiri constituency amid his Telugu Desam Party (TDP)’s drubbing in the 2019 Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections by the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), Nara Lokesh has not only made a turnaround by winning the same seat in the recent Assembly polls by over 91,000 votes – the highest margin in the state – but has also emerged as the voice of his party in the state.

In the simultaneous Lok Sabha and AssembNara Lokeshly elections in Andhra Pradesh, the TDP, led by N Chandrababu Naidu, father of Nara Lokesh, swept the polls, storming back to power in the state.

Fighting these polls in alliance with the BJP and the Pawan Kalyan-led JanaSena Party (JSP), the TDP also bagged 16 Lok Sabha seats to emerge as the second-largest constituent of the ruling BJP-led NDA.

With Naidu emerging as a key player on the national stage besides returning to the helm of the TDP-led government in Andhra Pradesh, Lokesh, 41, is expected to set the tone for the coalition regime in the state.

“We are looking forward to running a government that can work with humility and deliver on its promises. The party will affirm its welfare agenda and create 20 lakh jobs in the next five years,” Lokesh told The Indian Express.

Festive offer

His close aides attribute Lokesh’s comeback to his resilience and his ability to learn from the worst situations. “My padayatra changed me fundamentally as a person and made me humble and grounded, and eager to help people,” Lokesh said.

His associates say Lokesh describes his over 3,000-km padyatra “Yuva Galam” – which he undertook from Kuppam to Srikakulam during January-December last year – as “a learning and a Stanford moment”.

The TDP general secretary, Lokesh is an MBA from Stanford University and had undertaken the yatra, which is seen as one of the key reasons for the revival of the TDP.

A former MLC and minister in Andhra, Lokesh’s moment of truth came in September last year, when Naidu was arrested in connection with an alleged AP Skill Development Corporation scam. It was Lokesh who rose to the occasion then and held the party together as the TDP leaders wondered if Naidu would be able to walk out of prison and campaign for the polls.

“Lokesh knocked on all doors – from Andhra to Delhi – to ensure his father’s release. Those were tough times but he held the party together,” a senior TDP leader said.

Lokesh regularly visited his father in jail and took his “guidance” to ensure that the TDP’s campaign was not derailed. “He (Naidu) read every word of the papers related to the case filed against him while reading reports and constantly giving inputs and guidance on the party’s next course of action,” Lokesh said.

Party insiders said the TDP leaders began to look up to Lokesh as a resilient leader after he held a meeting with the party workers in Vijayawada and followed it up with a meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah to ensure the TDP chief’s release.

With an important role to play in Delhi now, the TDP has decided to entrust Lokesh with some important roles in the state as he is seen as an “accessible” face of the party, who is readily available to common people.

Sources said as the TDP had been away from the national political scene for the last five years, Lokesh has managed to win the confidence of the people in the state. Lokesh, who cites former Singapore PM Lee Kuan Yew, former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Naidu as his “political inspiration”, has also been tasked with handling key matters with alliance partners.

For instance, the TDP is widely perceived to be a southern party and does not support delimitation of the Lok Sabha seats, scheduled for 2026, based on population. “The TDP will work to ensure that all such contentious issues are not decided unilaterally (by the BJP). We are committed to discussing and deliberating on them while being committed to protecting the interest of all the states,” Lokesh said and added that the TDP was in favor of the NDA’s “one nation, one election” proposal.

A few leaders close to him claim Lokesh’s transformation into a seasoned politician is evident from his small-scale celebration after the party’s massive victory. The TDP won 135 seats in the 175-member Assembly on its own, reducing the YSRCP to 11 Assembly and four Lok Sabha seats. “Lokesh has remained level-headed and calm as he has seen several highs and lows in his life and that of his father,” one of his associates said.

Lokesh now faces the test of retaining the faith that the people of the state have reposed in his party overwhelmingly.