TDP scion Nara Lokesh on Friday, 27 January, embarked on his padayatra Yuva Galam from his family’s pocket borough Kuppam.
The move comes as the party faces the worst existential crisis in its 40-year-long history since its humiliating defeat in the 2019 Assembly polls.
In 2012, a similar padayatra by Lokesh’s father, former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, brought back the TDP to power in the 2014 polls.
Lokesh offered special poojas at the temple of Lord Varadaraja Swamy in Kuppam and also offered prayers at the local churches and mosques.
It had been a customary practice of the Nara family to offer special prayers at Varadaraja Swamy temple before taking up any important work in Kuppam. Following the practice, Lokesh too visited Varadaraja Swamy temple before launching his padayatra.
The rally begins
With thousands of party activists and his father-in-law, noted actor and Hindupur MLA Nandamuri Balakrishna, accompanying him, Lokesh launched his 4,000-km-long padayatra — apparently the longest in the state — at exactly 11.03 am.
Balakrishna (whose latest offering is doing average at the box office), Andhra Pradesh TDP chief Atchen Naidu, party politburo members, and thousands of party cadre walked with Lokesh.
He visited the Mecca Masjid at Lakshmipuram and later the Hebrass House of Worship Church at Bapunagar, where he offered prayers and took the blessings of the community elders.
At least 400 volunteers from several parts of Andhra Pradesh are also walking along with Lokesh.
Special arrangements have been made for their stay and food.
A special caravan vehicle has been readied for Lokesh for night stays.
Lokesh takes on state government
Addressing his maiden meeting at Kuppam on launching his padayatra, Lokesh said YSRCP leaders started trembling after he announced Yuva Galam.
“At least 10 Cabinet ministers began criticising me asking why I was undertaking the padayatra. I have every right, as it is the TDP that was behind the laying of 25,000 km of cement roads in the state,” he said.
“I am approaching the people as I have provided employment in the Information Technology sector to 40,000 youths as IT minister,” Lokesh said, adding that he also provided employment to another 40,000 youths in the electronic sector.
Stating that he once was a minister with three portfolios and had every right to undertake the padayatra, the TDP national general secretary a sked the YSRCP what it had done for the state in the past three-and-half years.
Observing that investors would not set up their units in the state if ministers danced on the roads like the YSRCP leaders, Lokesh said that inviting investment did not mean running casinos.
Taraka Ratna faints
Tollywood actor Nandamuri Taraka Ratna collapsed minutes after Lokesh launched his padayatra on Friday.
Balakrishna’s other nephew and Lokesh’s cousin Taraka Ratna was participating in the padayatra to stand in solidarity with the TDP leader.
However, he fainted when a stampede-like situation ensued near a mosque that Lokesh visited.
పప్పు పులకేష్ పాదయాత్ర జనాల చావు యాత్రల తయారీ అయ్యేలా ఉంది.
— Krishnaveni Paleti (@KrishnaveniRaaz) January 27, 2023
Party workers immediately rushed him to a nearby hospital.
Nandamuri Balakrishna said Taraka Ratna’s health was stable after the doctors administered first aid. He added that his nephew was being shifted to Bengaluru for better medical treatment.
Balakrishna said doctors found a few blockages in Taraka Ratna’s heart, according to preliminary reports.
Taraka Ratna has been actively seen with Balakrishna for a few days. There were reports that he wanted to join politics and contest in the 2024 polls on a TDP ticket from one of the Assembly segments in the state.
Taraka Ratna is the grandson of TDP founder, legendary actor, and former chief minister NT Rama Rao. He is the cousin of actors Junior NTR, Kalyan Ram, and Lokesh.
Taraka Ratna made his film debut in 2002 and has acted in about a dozen movies and web series.