Senior Congress leader Karan Singh has emerged as the frontrunner along with another party veteran S M Krishna for appointment as external affairs minister with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stating on Tuesday that the slot will be filled on his return home in a week's time.
Erudite Karan Singh, who heads the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, is also a member of the Rajya Sabha and had been sent to Nepal as the prime minister's special envoy recently to talk to King Gyanendra at the height of the crisis in Nepal.
Hailing from the royal family of Jammu and Kashmir, 75-year old Singh was a Union minister in Indira Gandhi's Cabinet.
His name has also figured in the speculation for the office of President when A P J Abdul Kalam's tenure ends in July 2007.
Krishna, a former Karnataka chief minister, who is currently governor of Maharashtra, is known to be a suave leader.
After he unsuccessfully led the Congress in the Assembly polls held alongwith the Lok Sabha elections, he was made Maharashtra governor.
Reports had it that 74-year old Krishna was making attempts to come back to active politics.
The names of Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal are also doing the rounds in political circles for the key post lying vacant after K Natwar Singh resigned in the wake of the Volcker controversy late in 2005.
The prime minister told reporters on his way to Brazil that he will soon have a full-time external affairs minister.
"Yes, I have said there is need for a full-time foreign minister and hopefully when I go back (from the two-nation tour), there should be a foreign minister in place. I think, I will be back on the 18th. And I think soon thereafter," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told journalists when asked whether he would have a full-fledged external affairs minister.
The prime minister, who holds the portfolio now, is assisted by two Ministers of State -- Anand Sharma and E Ahamed.
There has also been talk that Union Minister Oscar Fernandes, who is a minister without portfolio, will be drafted full time in the All India Congress Committee for organisational work.