The Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which is still beaming from its MLC poll victories, has more reasons to celebrate.
TDP national general secretary and former Andhra Pradesh minister Nara Lokesh’s 4,000-km Yuva Galam — or the voice of the youth — padayatra is all set to touch its 50th-day milestone on Saturday, 25 March.
The padayatra will take a three-day break owing to Ugadi, the Telugu New Year that falls on Wednesday, 22 March, TDP sources said on Tuesday.
The yatra, which began on 27 January from his family’s pocket borough of Kuppam in the Chittoor district, saw the 40-year-old leader covering more than 625 km before entering the Sri Satya Sai district on Tuesday, 21 March.
Along the way, he visited the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple in Kadiri town, and performed special pujas, seeking the blessings of the presiding deity.
The first milestone of the yatra — the completion of 50 days — comes even as the TDP is buoyed by its first victory since the 2019 polls, in the MLC elections held on 13 March.
The TDP won all three MLC constituencies under the graduates’ quota, which is likely to boost its morale before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Hundreds of TDP workers, senior leaders, including legislators, in addition to the party’s political consultancy team, are working round the clock for Yuva Galam.
South First takes a quick look at Lokesh’s yatra, its agenda, and the major players.
The 400-day campaign trail
Lokesh, son of TDP supremo and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, hit the mass-contact trail with the weight of the party’s expectations on his shoulders.
Foremost is the revival of the fortunes of the TDP, which has been facing its worst existential crisis since it was founded by legendary actor NT Rama Rao on 29 March, 1982.
The 400-day walkathon is expected to culminate at Ichapuram on the Andhra-Odisha border. In 2012, a similar padayatra by Chandrababu Naidu catapulted the TDP back to power in 2014.
Lokesh offered special pujas at the temple of Lord Varadaraja Swamy in Kuppam.
He also offered prayers at the local churches and mosques before commencing the yatra.
The Nara family offers special prayers at the Varadaraja Swamy Temple before taking up any important work in Kuppam.
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Youth power to the fore
Interestingly, it is the “youth brigade” that is driving the Yuva Galam. Young leaders from the Telugu Yuvatha and the Telugu Nadu Student Federation (TNSF), the youth and student wings, respectively, of the TDP, are at the forefront, while the party seniors, including Chandrababu Naidu, are backstage, giving necessary guidance to the yatris.
At least 600 activists from these two affiliate wings of the TDP are participating in the yatra.
Around 250 of them are always on the ground with Lokesh, involved in planning logistics to finalising routes and meetings.
“Yuva Galam is entirely the effort of the TDP’s Gen-X. Right from conceptualising to designing and implementing the plans, the members of the party’s youth and student wings are handling the entire operations,” TDP MLC Gunupati Deepak Reddy, who is acting as a bridge between the yatra and the party, told South First.
At least 12 verticals/teams work for Yuva Galam. Each vertical has a committee.
These verticals are in charge of aspects such as volunteers, logistics, food, water, identifying campsites, planning the route, and organising meetings.
These committees have the backing of the poll-consulting firm, ShowTime Consulting (STC). An STC team conducts a recce and finalises the route and plans meetings.
District and Assembly constituency-level leaders also take part in the planning of programmes.
From organising targeted interactions with different sections of people to coming up with slogans, to giving Nara Lokesh’s speeches shape, the political consultancy team is focused on turning the yatra impactful.
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A yatra for change
“We are all volunteering for the sake of the state which is in a shambles. The YSRCP rule has destroyed every sector in the past four years. There are no jobs for youngsters,” TNSF state president Pranav Gopal told South First.
“There is a lot of angst among the youth. We are worried about the future of Andhra Pradesh. We have joined hands with the sole agenda of ushering in a change in the state. We are all with Nara Lokesh. We are on a mission,” he added.
Gopal said that the leaders of all 12 verticals meet twice a day to plug any hole.
“Each day is a learning experience, and we are continuing to improve. We are all happy and satisfied with the response Yuva Gulam is receiving from all sections of society, especially women. We feel we are doing the right thing to change the state,” he said.
MLC Deepak Reddy highlighted another fact: The youth constitute almost 50 percent of the state’s population, but a mere 12 percent of the MPs from Andhra Pradesh are aged under 40.
He proceeded to take an indirect dig at the YSRCP. “The state is unquestionably leading, but only in drug and alcohol abuse, and crime rates. This is not what our people deserve,” he said.
“Yuva Galam is a mass-outreach programme meant to sensitise the youth and voters to the prevailing issues, and walking with them in at least 125 Assembly constituencies,” he added. Andhra Pradesh has 175 Assembly segments.
At the end of the day, when the yatra draws to a close, the internal brainstorming session begins.
From assessment of impact and feedback from that day’s padayatra to finalising specifics for the next day, seniormost members of all verticals hold discussions, team members said.
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Team Nara Lokesh also said the Yuva Galam padayatra aims at achieving three objectives: Participate, raise your voice, and set the agenda.
Incidentally, with the lone exception of YS Sharmila, all others who undertook a padayatra in Andhra Pradesh won the elections.
Sharmila embarked on a 3,000-km walkathon from Idupulapaya in the Kadapa district on 18 October 2012 and covered 14 districts before concluding the yatra in Ichchapuram on 4 August, 2013.
However, her bus yatra across present-day divided Andhra Pradesh in 2019 was successful when her brother, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, was elected as the chief minister.
For the record, Lokesh then suffered a humiliating defeat in Mangalagiri.