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Congress leader Jeetendra Prasada
"No individual leader is powerful enough to revive the party"
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Monday, 30 October, 2000, 12:32 GMT
Sonia Gandhi faces challenge
Jeetendra Prasada after filing his nomination
Jeetendra Prasada (centre) is pushing for change
A dissident member of India's opposition Congress Party has launched a campaign to oust Sonia Gandhi as party leader.

Senior Congress leader Jitendra Prasada formally declared on Sunday that he would stand against her for the post of party president in elections in mid-November.

A vibrant political party must change and improve its method of functioning

Challenger Jeetendra Prasada
Mr Prasada was a confidant of Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi's late husband, Rajiv - both former premiers who were assassinated.

He said the Congress Party was in serious danger, and attacked a key group of people surrounding the party president and blocking access to her.

"Coteries are a cancer that eat into the vitals of all political parties - we must save the Congress from them," Mr Prasada told a news conference in Delhi.

He avoided naming Sonia Gandhi directly, but said the party needed greater transparency and the confidence of grassroots workers needed to be restored.

"A vibrant political party must change and improve its method of functioning in accordance with changing reality," he said.

Mr Prasada said he would travel across the country to seek support from party delegates.

Symbolic challenge

Most analysts believe that Mr Prasada is unlikely to succeed in his leadership bid against Mrs Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi
Dissent is mounting against Mrs Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi has led the Congress party since 1998, drawing much of her political strength from her association with the legendary Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which dominated the leadership for most of the past 50 years.

But although she still has a large and devoted body of support within the party, recently there have been growing murmurs of discontent.

Critics have questioned Mrs Gandhi's ability to revitalise the party by bringing fresh energy and talent into its ranks.

She is also been accused of alienating grassroots workers by being aloof and too autocratic in her style of leadership.

The BBC's Jill McGivering says Mrs Gandhi should see Mr Prasada's challenge as a symbolic warning, at a time when the party has had few successes at the polls and critics say it is failing to be a dynamic opposition party.

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See also:

23 Dec 99 | South Asia
Congress structure gets shake-up
12 Oct 99 | South Asia
Congress considers dismal results
19 Apr 99 | South Asia
Sonia Gandhi: Heir to a dynasty
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