Monday, May 17, 1999 Published at 22:41 GMT 23:41 UK
World: South Asia
Gandhi sticks to her guns
Sonia Gandhi's supporters demand the rebels resign
Sonia Gandhi has stepped down as President of the Indian opposition Congress Party, despite pleas from party leaders to reconsider her resignation.
She said she was pained by the dissidents' lack of confidence in her, and added that she considered India as her motherland.
Mrs Gandhi then walked out of an emergency meeting of the Congress Working Committee Party.
Party leaders said they would not accept her resignation, and quickly despatched a delegation to persuade her to change her mind.
Our correspondent in Delhi, Mike Wooldridge, says Mrs Gandhi's move leaves Congress in a dilemma, with no clear alternative leader just four months before an election.
Meanwhile, the most high profile of the three rebels, Sharad Pawar, leader of the opposition in the last parliament, has said they did not intend to make Mrs Gandhi resign.
Dissent in party ranks
The three rebels had demanded that India's 1950 constitution be altered to ban foreign-born citizens from becoming prime minister.
Sharad Pawar, former Parliamentary Speaker Purno Sangma and senior leader Tariq Anwar had written to Mrs Gandhi to set out their dissenting views.
"It is not possible that a country of 980 million people, with a wealth of education, competence and ability, can have anyone other than an Indian, born of Indian soil, to head its government," they said.
Mrs Gandhi's Italian background had previously been targeted by Congress's opponents, with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party citing it a major campaign issue.
The action by the three Congress rebels was the first to cause open dissent within the party.
Mrs Gandhi, a political novice until a year ago, has none.
She only entered politics last year after the assassination of her husband, Rajiv Gandhi.