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DATE=10/12/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=INDIA / CONGRESS (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-254901 BYLINE=ANJANA PASRICHA DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: In India, the defeated Congress party has reaffirmed its faith in the leadership of Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, electing her as head of their parliamentary party. In the recent national elections, the Congress Party lost to the Hindu- nationalist coalition in the party's worst defeat ever. After the poor showing, some questions were raised whether the results would erode Mrs. Gandhi's hold on India's oldest political party - but Congress legislators say she continues to be their unquestioned leader. From New Delhi, Anjana Pasricha has a report. Text: In a closed-door meeting Tuesday, newly elected Congress Party lawmakers unanimously elected Sonia Gandhi leader of the parliamentary party. Before the vote, Mrs. Gandhi said she was taking full blame for the party's defeat in the recent elections and was willing to work for the party in any capacity. But party members indicated they want Mrs. Gandhi to lead the party "from the front" as it attempts to recover from the recent electoral debacle. The party won only 112 seats in the recent elections - its smallest number ever in the 545-member house. Despite the losses, Congress spokesperson Ajit Jogi says there is no dissent in the party. /// JOGI ACT /// She is the supreme leader, she is the unanimous leader, she is acceptable to all, and that has again been proved in today's election. /// END ACT /// Senior Congress leader Salman Khursheed also said the party was rallying behind Mrs. Gandhi. /// INSERT KHURSHEED ACT /// Absolutely, you saw it today, it (the Congress) is absolutely behind Mrs. Gandhi. /// END ACT /// Although Mrs. Gandhi's position remains unchallenged, there could be changes in the Congress Party's top leadership. After the party's defeat, some younger leaders called for a "generational change" - indicating they would like her to replace some of her most trusted advisers. Several of the senior leaders have resigned in recent days, blaming themselves for the party's defeat. The resignations are being interpreted as a ploy to insulate Mrs. Gandhi from criticism for the party's performance in the elections - and give Mrs. Gandhi an opportunity to overhaul the party. (OPT) Mrs. Gandhi has not yet decided whether she will take the official role of leader of the opposition in parliament. Some members say she may not be able to handle the job because she speaks Hindi poorly. (END OPT) As the leader of the Congress Party, Mrs. Gandhi has a difficult task ahead. Political analysts say her party's resounding defeat in the elections shows the charisma of the Nehru-Gandhi family is no longer enough to mobilize voters. They also say Mrs. Gandhi's foreign birth and inexperience in public affairs may have had a greater effect on voters than the party would like to admit. The Congress Party rejects this line of reasoning, saying Mrs. Gandhi's easy victory in both the parliamentary districts she contested shows that voters are not concerned about her Italian ancestry. Mrs. Gandhi took charge of the party in 1998, hoping to reverse the steady decline in its political fortunes -- but so far she has failed to stem the decline. (Signed) NEB/AP/KL 12-Oct-1999 08:56 AM EDT (12-Oct-1999 1256 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .