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DATE=5/24/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-249728 TITLE=INDIA POL (S&L) BYLINE=ANJANA PASRICHA DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: IN INDIA, ITALIAN-BORN SONIA GANDHI HAS WITHDRAWN HER RESIGNATION AS CONGRESS PARTY PRESIDENT. ANJANA PASRICHA REPORTS FROM NEW DELHI, MRS. GANDHI'S DECISION ENDS A LEADERSHIP CRISIS FOR THE COUNTRY'S MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY. TEXT: IT WAS A NIGHT OF LONG CELEBRATION FOR THE BELEAGUERED CONGRESS PARTY. PARTY LEADER PRANAB MUKHERJEE ANNOUNCED LATE MONDAY, SONIA GANDHI HAS AGREED TO CONTINUE AS CONGRESS PARTY PRESIDENT, BOWING TO INTENSE PRESSURE FROM THOUSANDS OF PARTY WORKERS AND LEADERS. THE CONGRESS PARTY PLUNGED INTO CRISIS WHEN MRS. GANDHI RESIGNED A WEEK AGO, AFTER THREE SENIOR LEADERS SAID HER ITALIAN BIRTH MADE HER UNFIT TO BE BE THE PARTY'S PRIME MINISTERIAL CANDIDATE IN THE SEPTEMBER ELECTIONS. MRS. GANDHI TOOK OVER AS PARTY PRESIDENT LAST YEAR. THE PARTY WAS RELYING HEAVILY ON HER TO GIVE IT A WINNING EDGE IN THE COMING ELECTIONS. /// REST OPT FOR LONG /// CONGRESS PARTY LEADERS SAY MRS. GANDHI WILL PRESIDE OVER A KEY PARTY SESSION TUESDAY, WHICH WAS ORIGINALLY CONVENED TO DISCUSS THE PARTY'S LEADERSHIP CRISIS AND TO PERSUADE HER TO REVERSE HER DECISION. BUT MR. MUKHERHEE SAYS MRS. GANDHI DECIDED TO RETURN TO THE HELM OF AFFAIRS AFTER SEEING THE IMMENSE SOLIDARITY DISPLAYED BY CONGRESS WORKERS IN RECENT DAYS. /// MUKHERJEE ACT /// WHAT I CAN GATHER [IS] THAT THE EVENTS OF LAST SEVEN DAYS INCLUDING TODAY THAT CREATED AN IMPRESSION ON HER MIND THAT PERHAPS AT THIS CRUCIAL JUNCTURE SHE SHOULD NOT LET DOWN THE CONGRESS MEN AND WOMEN. /// END ACT /// HOWEVER, POLITICAL ANALYSTS SAY MRS. GANDHI NOW FACES A TOUGH CHALLENGE, NOT ONLY FROM HINDU NATIONALISTS, BUT ALSO FROM THE THREE DISSIDENTS WHO CHALLENGED HER LEADERSHIP. THE DISSENTING LEADERS HELD DISCUSSIONS IN NEW DELHI MONDAY ABOUT THE FORMATION OF A RIVAL POLITICAL PARTY. THEY SAY THEIR PARTY WILL PROVIDE A NATIONAL ALTERNATIVE, AND THEY ARE TRYING TO WEAN SECTIONS OF THE CONGRESS PARTY TO THEIR SIDE. THE REBELS ALSO SAY THEY WILL TURN MRS. GANDHI'S FOREIGN BIRTH INTO A MAJOR ELECTION ISSUE -- DEMANDING THE COUNTRY'S CONSTITUTION BE AMENDED TO ALLOW ONLY NATURAL-BORN INDIANS TO HOLD THE COUNTRY'S TOP JOB. (SIGNED) NEB/AP/WTW 24-May-99 2:14 PM EDT (1814 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .