Congress president Sonia Gandhi has asked Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily and Minister of State for Science & Technology Prithviraj Chavan to head for Hyderabad at the earliest to deal with the situation arising after Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s helicopter went missing in the morning on Wednesday.

The Congress on Wednesday described the situation arising after Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s helicopter went missing in the morning as a ``crisis’’ but pleaded ignorance about any further details.

By evening, Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily and Minister of State for Science & Technology Prithviraj Chavan to head for Hyderabad at the earliest to deal with the situation.

While Mr. Moily has been asked to go in his capacity as the party’s general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Chavan – who holds additional charge of Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office – is going as the Centre’s representative to monitor the search operations.

The decision to send the two Ministers to Andhra Pradesh was taken in the evening; nine hours after the chopper went missing in the Nallamala forest area near Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. Other Andhra Pradesh Congress leaders including Union Minister for Urban Development S. Jaipal Reddy and V. Hanumantha Rao are also heading for Hyderabad.

Ms. Gandhi is understood to have spoken to the Chief Minister’s son, Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy – a first-time member of the Lok Sabha – during the day. After Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram briefed Ms. Gandhi in the evening about the steps being taken to find Mr. Reddy, the Congress president called an emergency meeting of her key aides – Ministers Pranab Mukherjee and A. K. Antony, and political secretary Ahmed Patel -- to take stock of the situation.

Shaken by the turn of events but keeping its hopes alive for now, the Congress refused to speak about the issue with spokesman Manish Tewari stating that the party had nothing to add to what Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister K. Roshiah had said in Hyderabad. ``It is an evolving situation. This is a sensitive situation,…. a crisis situation. We are praying for his safety. ’’

As the hours passed by, however, hope began fading in the Congress and leaders could not help remembering the party losing other dynamic leaders like Madhavrao Scindia and Rajesh Pilot in accidents. In addition, they pointed out, Mr. Reddy’s chopper went missing in a Naxal-prone dense forest area, adding to the risks in this case.

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