TDP scion and former minister Nara Lokesh is all set to embark on a padayatra called the “Yuva Galam” from his family’s pocket-borough Kuppam in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh on 27 January.
Lokesh’s “agenda-setting” padayatra is expected to culminate at Ichapuram in the Srikakulam district on the Andhra-Odisha border, after traversing through several parts of the state for 400 days.
The yatra’s slogan would be “Let’s Walk with Lokesh. Let’s Walk for a better Andhra Pradesh”.
The 4,000-km padayatra is probably the longest in the history of Andhra Pradesh politics taken up by any politician. The route map is already finalised.
“Lokesh is the future leader of the TDP and the future of Andhra Pradesh,” TDP AP unit president and former minister K Atchennaidu told reporters while giving details about Yuva Galam on Wednesday, 28 December.
“Under the current regime, it’s the youngsters who have suffered a lot due to unemployment. Lokesh’s padayatra will be a simple affair, unlike YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s padayatra, which resembled a movie shooting and setting,” he added.
The trigger for the padayatra
Along with Atchennaidu, a battery of senior leaders of the opposition TDP unveiled the logo and poster of Lokesh’s padayatra at the party headquarters in Mangalagiri.
“During the TDP’s ongoing Idhem Kharma Mana Rashtraniki campaign, a large number of young people have been showing up and raising issues in the state that they would not have raised otherwise. As a result, the Telugu Desam Party has entrusted Nara Lokesh with leading this journey and introducing the Yuva Galam platform to the youth of Andhra Pradesh,” said Atchennaidu.
Another senior leader, Kalava Srinivasulu, said apart from a padayatra, Yuva Galam is also a campaign and platform for the youth.
“It’s a campaign to mobilise the youth of AP to participate in the agenda-setting process, as well as to raise their voices to express their opinions and demand change,” he said.
“Nara Lokesh will be at the forefront, travelling 4,000 km across the state in 400 days, from Kuppam to Ichchapuram, to provide a platform for our youth and others to come together, speak up and fight for what they deserve,” said Srinivasulu.
“Andhra Pradesh has been suffering for the last 3.5 years. One person commits suicide every four days because of unemployment. With over 1.5 crore people unemployed, our state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country,” he alleged.
“With skyrocketing fuel prices, we are leading the country’s charts in paying the highest prices for petrol and diesel. During the last 3.5 years, every eight hours a woman in the state is victimised. Due to backtracked development and lack of investments in the state, the future of youth in the state is at a crossroads,” Srinivasulu added.
Youth constitute almost 50 percent of the state’s population but a mere 12 percent of the MPs from the state are under 40 years of age.
“We are unquestionably leading, but only in terms of drugs and alcohol abuse, and crime rates. This is not what our people deserve,” said Srinivasulu.
“The Yuva Galam is a mass-outreach programme by Nara Lokesh, with the goal of sensitising the youth of Andhra Pradesh and voters to the prevalent issues in current governance and interacting with them while walking 100 Assembly constituencies in the state,” he added.
Team Nara Lokesh said the Yuva Galam was being planned out on three basic pillars: Participate, raise your voice, and set the agenda.
“We want youth to participate in the yatra and join the voices of the youth community; also get the opportunity to build a network with key influencers in the state. Connect with Nara Lokesh in a variety of interactive setups. And then raise your voice in support of Telugu youth while holding the government accountable for the problems that today’s youth face in the state. Set the agenda for the next elections by diverting the government’s attention to the issues and proposing a youth-centric agenda,” said a key member of Team Lokesh.
Walkathons have helped
With one exception, whoever has undertaken a padayatra in recent times in Andhra Pradesh has gone on to win the next elections and become chief minister.
In the Telugu states and in recent times, Jagan’s father YS Rajasekhara Reddy was the first politician to embark on a padayatra to revive the fortunes of the Congress after it suffered a huge defeat at the hands of Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP in 1999.
To rejuvenate the party, Rajasekhara Reddy undertook a 1,475-km walkathon across the united Andhra Pradesh and eventually brought the party back into power in 2004. The film Yatra, starring Malayalam actor Mammootty, was based on Reddy’s padayatra.
Similarly, in a bid to resurrect the fortunes of the TDP, Naidu embarked on a 2,800-km padayatra across the length and breadth of Andhra Pradesh in 2012. He won the 2014 election and became the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, with Telangana cleaved away.
Jagan followed in the footsteps of his father and embarked on his Praja Sankalpa Yatra in 2017, covering 3,648 km — said to be the longest padayatra by any politician.
Eventually, he registered a landslide victory in 2019, despite the strong Narendra Modi wave sweeping across the country.
Apart from being a mass-contact programme, the padayatra helped Jagan sort out differences between party leaders wherever he went, which eventually helped the electioneering of the party. Leaders put aside differences and worked with the sole aim of making Jagan Mohan the chief minister.
The only exception to the successful padayatra rule is that of Jagan’s sister Sharmila.
She took up the party mantle when her brother was in jail and had also walked the length and breadth of the state. However, in the polls that followed in 2014, the YSRCP could not come to power.