Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

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.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge reports on Sonia Gandhi's resignation
The Italian-born opposition leader tendered her resignation after three senior party members challenged her suitability as prime ministerial candidate for September's general election.

She said she was pained by the dissidents' lack of confidence in her, and added that she considered India as her motherland.

Mike Wooldridge: Could Sonia Gandhi ever put the foreigner tag behind her now?
"Though born in a foreign land, I chose India as my country. I am Indian and I will remain so till my last breath," she said.

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.

[ image: Sharad Pawar was one of the dissenting Congress leaders]
Sharad Pawar was one of the dissenting Congress leaders
But after a late night meeting, all the delegation could report was that it had been given a patient hearing.

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.

Chandan Mitra, Editor of Pioneer: "Congress Party on the verge of a split"
Their letter also demanded that India's prime minister should have some "track record in public life".

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.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

17 May 99 | South Asia
Sonia Gandhi faces rebellion

28 Apr 99 | South Asia
Vajpayee on the offensive

25 Apr 99 | South Asia
Congress 'cannot take power'

21 Apr 99 | South Asia
India's ruling dynasty

19 Apr 99 | South Asia
Sonia Gandhi: Heir to a dynasty

Internet Links

Indian parliament

Election Commission of India

Congress Party


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Sharif: I'm innocent

India's malnutrition 'crisis'

Tamil rebels consolidate gains

From Sport
Saqlain stars in Aussie collapse

Pakistan fears Afghan exodus

Hindu-Buddhist conference in Nepal

Afghan clerics issue bin Laden fatwa

Culture awards at Asian festival

Gandhi pleads for husband's killer

UN condemns Afghan bombing

Gandhi prize for Bangladeshi