With enough numbers to win three Rajya Sabha seats and a few surplus votes, the Congress is exploring the possibility of fielding a fourth candidate after consultation with friendly parties.

Amid talk of cross-voting and even horse-trading, the ruling party hopes to name three candidates on January 26 before the last date for filing of nominations. The Congress is keen on winning the four seats as the TDP, given its numbers, can win the remaining two in the February 7 polls.

There are strong indications that the Congress may give another term to two outgoing MPs -- K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao and M.A. Khan. The former may be rewarded for warding off a crisis by preventing mass defections to the YSR Congress and saving the Kiran Kumar Reddy government during the no-confidence vote while Mr. Khan is the only senior minority leader from Telangana. If he fails to get the nod, former Minister Md. Fareeduddin could be in the reckoning.

The name of former bureaucrat K. Raju is figuring because of his access to Rahul Gandhi. But, a top Congress source said that Mr. Raju had recently indicated to his well-wishers that he was not keen on an RS ticket. Indications are that he may be in the race to become political secretary to Mr. Gandhi in the near future.

TSR too pitching

Rajya Sabha member T. Subbarami Reddy, too, is trying for a third term knowing well that the party has no inclination to consider the plea. If the top leadership gives some clarity on his candidature for the Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha seat, he may drop out of the race.

Sources said PCC president Botcha Satyanarayana held consultations with the central leadership during his recent Delhi visit on the RS polls. It is learnt that the high command sought to know whether the fourth candidate could be fielded. In such a scenario, the party may hold talks with the TRS and the MIM to bag the fourth seat.

During an informal chat with reporters on Tuesday, the PCC chief brushed aside the threats held out by some disgruntled Seemandhra Congress MLAs to defeat the official nominees, asserting that they were eyeing other parties.

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