The central leadership of the Congress has launched the process of finding a successor to late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who died in a helicopter crash last week.
A day after asking party leaders in the state not to air their views publicly on the leadership issue, the central leadership held informal consultations with some senior leaders in Delhi on Monday.
Congress MP U Arun Kumar, former president of the state Congress L Keshava Rao and senior leader and Rajya Sabha member V Hanumantha Rao met party president Sonia Gandhi, party sources here said. They informed the party chief of their choice for the next chief minister.
Arun Kumar is a considered a YSR loyalist while Keshava Rao has reportedly expressed his displeasure over the manner in which supporters of YSR's son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy are pitching for him as the next leader.
Hanumantha Rao has taken the stand that the central leadership should take the decision in the matter.
Keshava Rao is learnt to have briefed Sonia Gandhi of Sunday's incident at the party headquarters here when Jagan's supporters disrupted a condolence meeting and raised slogans against state Congress chief D. Srinivas.
At the intervention of the central leadership, Jagan issued an appeal to his followers to halt the campaign in his favour and advised them to wait for and abide by the high command's decision.
It was also on the direction of the central leadership that all 34 ministers took oath afresh on Sunday. Some ministers were reluctant to take oath to mount pressure on the party to name Jagan as the chief minister.
After Sonia Gandhi held talks with the party's general secretary incharge of Andhra Pradesh affairs M. Veerappa Moily, YSR's long-time friend K.V.P. Ramchandra Rao was asked to convey to the ministers that such pressure tactics would not work.
Meanwhile, KVP, as the Rajya Sabha member is popularly known, is leaving for Delhi on Monday evening to meet Moily, Ahmed Patel and other leaders. He is likely to apprise them of the sentiments of Jagan's loyalists.
Though the high command had refused to discuss the issue of leadership till the seven-day mourning period is over on Wednesday, Sunday's developments forced it to start the process of addressing the issue on priority.
Party sources said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to arrive here on Thursday to hold talks with various sections within the party. It is after his visit that the party may decide to convene a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) to elect its new leader.
Jagan, 37, and a first time MP, appears to be the front runner for the chief minister's post. Acting Chief Minister K. Rosaiah, state Congress president D. Srinivas and union minister Jaipal Reddy are the other likely contenders for the post.
Meanwhile, senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP V. Hanumantha Rao has clarified that he was not in the race for the chief minister's post. Rao told reporters in Delhi that it was not the time for demanding the post for a leader from backward classes.
Former chief minister N. Janardhan Reddy has backed Jagan's candidature for the chief minister's post. He advised the high command to consult KVP while deciding the next leader.
Former union minister and Congress Working Committee member G. Venkatswamy too wants Jagan to be made the next chief minister. "Jagan alone can carry on the policies of his father and he should get the opportunity," said Venkatswamy.