News

DATE=5/18/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-249506 TITLE=INDIA / CONGRESS (L ONLY) BYLINE=ANJANA PASRICHA DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: INDIA'S OPPOSITION CONGRESS PARTY IS INTENSIFYING PRESSURE ON SONIA GANDHI TO WITHDRAW HER RESIGNATION AS LEADER OF THE PARTY. ANJANA PASRICHA REPORTS FROM NEW DELHI, THE CONGRESS PARTY IS IN CRISIS FOLLOWING MRS. GANDHI'S DECISION TO STEP DOWN. SHE RESIGNED AFTER THREE SENIOR CONGRESS LEADERS QUESTIONED HER CREDENTIALS TO BE THE PARTY'S CANDIDATE FOR PRIME MINISTER IN THE SEPTEMBER ELECTIONS BECAUSE OF HER FOREIGN BIRTH. TEXT: DOZENS OF CONGRESS PARTY LEADERS FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY TUESDAY SUBMITTED THEIR RESIGNATIONS TO MRS. GANDHI -- AND SAID THEY WILL STEP DOWN FROM THEIR POSTS IF MRS. GANDHI DOES NOT RESUME LEADERSHIP OF THE PARTY. CHIEF MINISTERS OF FOUR STATES (DELHI, RAJASTHAN, MADHYA PRADESH, ORISSA) RULED BY THE CONGRESS PARTY ARE AMONG THOSE WHO SAY THEY WILL QUIT UNLESS MRS. GANDHI AGREES TO CONTINUE AS PARTY CHIEF. DELHI CHIEF MINISTER, SHIELA DIKSHIT, SAYS THERE IS NO DOUBT IN THE PARTY RANKS THAT ITALIAN-BORN MRS. GANDHI MUST BE ITS CANDIDATE FOR PRIME MINISTER IN THE COMING GENERAL ELECTIONS. /// INSERT DIKSHIT ACT /// MRS. GANDHI IS THE NATURAL LEADER. CONGRESSMEN ALL OVER THE COUNTRY ARE PLEADING WITH HER, REQUESTING THAT SHE MUST WITHDRAW HER RESIGNATION BECAUSE THE VERY SURVIVAL OF THE CONGRESS, IN THEIR MINDS, DEPENDS ON HER. /// END DIKSHIT ACT /// CONGRESS SPOKESMAN AJIT JOGI SAYS THE PARTY IS "STUNNED" AND CANNOT CONTEMPLATE A FUTURE WITHOUT MRS. GANDHI. BUT HE SAYS SO FAR MRS. GANDHI IS FIRM IN HER RESOLVE NOT TO RECONSIDER HER RESIGNATION. EXPRESSING SOLIDARITY WITH MRS. GANDHI, HUNDREDS OF CONGRESS PARTY MEMBERS ARE DEMANDING THE EXPULSION OF THE THREE LEADERS WHO RAISED OBJECTIONS TO HER LEADERSHIP. BUT THE DISSENTING LEADERS HAVE GIVEN NO INDICATION THEY WILL BACK DOWN FROM THEIR DEMAND THAT ONLY NATIVE-BORN INDIANS SHOULD HOLD THE COUNTRY'S TOP POSTS. AMONG THEM IS SHARAD PAWAR -- AN INFLUENTIAL LEADER FROM THE WESTERN STATE OF MAHARASHTRA. HE SAYS THE ISSUE INVOLVES THE NATION'S SELF-RESPECT. /// INSERT PAWAR ACT /// IT'S A QUESTION OF PRINCIPLE, IT'S A QUESTION OF NATIONAL INTEREST AND IT'S A QUESTION OF PRESTIGE IN RESPECT OF THE NATION AND EVERY INDIAN. /// END PAWAR ACT /// POLITICAL ANALYSTS ARE VIEWING THE REBELLION BY THE CONGRESS LEADERS -- AND MRS. GANDHI'S DECISION TO STEP DOWN -- AS A POWER STRUGGLE WITHIN THE PARTY. MR. PAWAR IS AN AMBITIOUS, POWERFUL, REGIONAL LEADER WHO HAS ASPIRED TO THE PRIME MINISTER'S POST IN THE PAST. ANALYSTS SAY MRS. GANDHI MAY USE THE REBELLION AGAINST HER LEADERSHIP AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO INCREASE HER SUPPORT WITHIN THE PARTY, WHICH HAS TRADITIONALLY RELIED HEAVILY ON THE GANDHI FAMILY TO BRING IN VOTES. BUT THEY SAY THE LEADERSHIP CRISIS WILL HURT THE PARTY AS IT PREPARES FOR ELECTIONS IN SEPTEMBER. MRS. GANDHI WAS BORN IN ITALY. SHE HAS LIVED IN INDIA SINCE MARRYING FORMER PRIME MINISTER RAJIV GANDHI. THE CONTROVERSY ABOUT HER FOREIGN BIRTH BEGAN IN RECENT WEEKS, AFTER CONGRESS LEADERS BEGAN PROJECTING HER AS THEIR CHOICE FOR PRIME MINISTER. (SIGNED) NEB/AP/KL 18-May-99 8:19 AM EDT (1219 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .