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DATE=5/17/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-249473 TITLE=INDIA/RESIGNATION (L) BYLINE=JIM TEEPLE DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: SONIA GANDHI, THE LEADER OF INDIA'S CONGRESS PARTY, HAS RESIGNED HER POSITION, BUT SENIOR PARTY OFFICIALS IMMEDIATELY REJECTED THE OFFER. MRS. GANDHI -- THE ITALIAN-BORN WIDOW OF FORMER PRIME MINISTER RAJIV GANDHI -- ISSUED A LETTER SAYING SHE WOULD RESIGN LATE MONDAY, AFTER A CALL BY OTHER PARTY OFFICIALS FOR HER TO STEP DOWN. V-O-A'S JIM TEEPLE REPORTS FROM NEW DELHI. TEXT: THE DRAMATIC ANNOUNCEMENT BY MRS. GANDHI CAME AFTER THREE SENIOR CONGRESS PARTY LEADERS QUESTIONED HER ABILITY TO LEAD THE COUNTRY, SAYING ONLY NATURAL-BORN INDIANS SHOULD ASPIRE TO HIGH OFFICE IN INDIA. IN HER LETTER OF RESIGNATION, READ TO JOURNALISTS BY PRANAB MUKHERJEE, A SENIOR CONGRESS PARTY OFFICIAL, MRS. GANDHI REJECTED ACCUSATIONS THAT SHE IS NOT SUFFICIENTLY INDIAN ENOUGH TO PARTICIPATE IN POLITICS OR RUN FOR HIGH OFFICE. /// GANDHI LETTER ACT /// THOUGH BORN IN A FOREIGN LAND, I CHOSE INDIA AS MY COUNTRY. I AM INDIAN. /// END ACT /// IN HER LETTER, MRS. GANDHI SAYS SHE IS PAINED BY SOME OF HER COLLEAGUES' LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN HER ABILITY TO ACT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CONGRESS PARTY, AND THE COUNTRY. SHE ALSO SAYS SHE WILL CONTINUE WORKING FOR THE PARTY, SAYING SHE ONLY ASSUMED A LEADERSHIP ROLE TO HELP THE PARTY WHEN IT APPEARED TO BE FACING A CHALLENGE TO ITS VERY EXISTENCE. CONGRESS PARTY LEADERS IMMEDIATELY REJECTED MRS. GANDHI'S RESIGNATION, SAYING THEY WILL TRY AND CONVINCE HER TO RECONSIDER HER DECISION. PRANAB MUKHERJEE SAYS THE PARTY'S SENIOR POLICY GROUP -- KNOWN AS THE CONGRESS WORKING COMMITTEE -- ARE UNITED IN CALLING FOR SONIA GANDHI TO WITHDRAW HER RESIGNATION. /// MUKHERJEE ACT /// ALL THE MEMBERS OF THE WORKING COMMITTEE ARE GOING TO CALL ON HER WITH A REQUEST TO CONTINUE AS THE CONGRESS PRESIDENT. /// END ACT /// THREE MEMBERS OF THE WORKING COMMITTEE DID NOT ATTEND MONDAY NIGHT'S MEETING. THE THREE, ALL INFLUENTIAL AND POWERFUL REGIONAL LEADERS, ISSUED A PUBLIC LETTER SUNDAY, SAYING INDIA SHOULD HAVE A NATIVE-BORN LEADER AND THE CONGRESS PARTY SHOULD BE LED BY SOMEONE WITH A TRACK RECORD IN PUBLIC LIFE. MRS. GANDHI WAS BORN IN ITALY. SHE MARRIED RAJIV GANDHI, INDIA'S FORMER PRIME MINISTER, WHO WAS ASSASSINATED DURING A 1991 ELECTION CAMPAIGN. SHE HAS NEVER HELD PUBLIC OFFICE, AND UNTIL RECENTLY SHE SHUNNED POLITICS. THE ACCUSATIONS BY THE THREE SENIOR CONGRESS LEADERS ECHO COMMENTS MADE BY MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNING BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY AND OTHERS. THE B-J-P - LED COALITION GOVERNMENT WAS DEFEATED LAST MONTH IN A PARLIAMENTARY VOTE OF CONFIDENCE LED BY THE CONGRESS PARTY. HOWEVER, MRS. GANDHI WAS UNABLE TO FORM A GOVERNMENT AND FRESH ELECTIONS HAVE NOW BEEN CALLED FOR SEPTEMBER OF THIS YEAR. (SIGNED) NEB/JLT/LTD/WTW 17-May-99 2:37 PM EDT (1837 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .