Gandhi turns down Prime Minister's job

May 18, 2004 at 6:56 PM
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NEW DELHI, May 18 (UPI) -- Political uncertainty engulfed India Tuesday after Italian-born Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi declined to become the new Prime Minister.

Gandhi was expected to be sworn in as India's Prime Minister Wednesday, but stunned the nation by saying her inner mind was against her taking up the job.

She said whenever she found herself in such a position, she always followed the "inner mind."

"I must abide by my decision and I appeal to you to understand my decision," Gandhi told a meeting of her party's lawmakers who appealed to her to change her mind. Allies from other parties were also trying to persuade her to become the new Prime Minister.

Gandhi turned down country's top elected office amid calls from India's outgoing ruling Bharatiya Janata Party that they would not tolerate a foreign-born person as India's new premier. One member of the former ruling coalition called her "fickle-minded."

The 57-year-old Gandhi, widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, led the Congress Party to a surprise victory in recently held federal elections.

Gandhi was unanimously elected as the Prime Minister candidate by her party and its allies after they won 220 seats in a fractured Parliament, 50 short of the 270 needed for a majority.

However, support from the left-wing parties and other socialist allies puts Gandhi into 320 plus seats -- much more than needed to govern.

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