As the decks are cleared for the formation of the state of Telangana, the search for its new chief minister may pose another challenge for the Congress.
Absence of any towering political personality and presence of several aspirants leaves the Congress-that has a majority among legislators of the proposed Telangana region-with no automatic choice.
"Unlike the former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh YS Rajasekhara Reddy who was the tallest leader of the state unit, the Telangana may see a strong fight between aspirants for the top job," said a senior Congress leader.
According to the law, the serving MLAs of the Andhra Pradesh assembly belonging to the territory of the new state will automatically become the latter's legislators and the party with majority will select its leader as CM. As per the current strength, the Congress has majority in the proposed Telangana.
To stem its regional factionalism, if the Congress high command opts to send someone from the centre to head the new state, many party insiders see union science minister S Jaipal Reddy as the frontrunner. The non-controversial, experienced hand has been long-time minister at the centre.
"But he has not been in the forefront of the Telangana struggle and that may be seen as a disadvantage," feels a Congress leader.
Among the state-level leaders, names of AP's panchayat raj minister K Jana Reddy, former state Congress chief D Srinivas and deputy chief minister Damodar Raj Narsimha are seen as hot contestants.
Reddy is a six-time MLA but has its political roots in the TDP. Srinivas has excellent grass-root connections but has faced financial allegations and Narsimha, a schedule caste face of the Congress has to bypass senior aspirants.
The possible merger or an understanding between the Congress and the Telangana Rashtriya Samity can also throw up K Chandrasekhar Rao-the TRS chief-as a key choice for the CM's chair.
Rao had been in the forefront of the Telangana movement for the past many years and his fast in 2009 forced the UPA government to issue a concrete statement on Telangana.
The new government in Telangana is not going to come up before the next five months.