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Sonia Gandhi Declines Post of Prime Minister - 2004-05-18

India's Congress Party leader, Sonia Gandhi, has declined to take the post of the country's next prime minister. As Anjana Pasricha reports, the announcement came on a day when she was widely expected to be named the country's first foreign-born prime minister and it has stunned her party and its allies.

The dramatic announcement that Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi will not be the country's next prime minister followed a day of high political drama in New Delhi.

Mrs. Gandhi told a meeting of her newly-elected lawmakers she had followed her conscience in reaching that decision. ?Today that voice tells me I must humbly decline this post,? she announced.

Upset Congress Party leaders such as Kapil Sibal tried to persuade the leader who led them to an unexpected victory to stay on. ?Unless you are there our inspiration will not be there ?please, please reconsider this,? he said.

Mrs. Gandhi's party and its allies had strongly supported her for the country's top job, but since Monday evening, speculation has been rife that she did not want the post.

Her party and allies say she was upset by a campaign mounted by a coalition led by the defeated Bharatiya Janata Party to oppose her as prime minister because she is not Indian by birth.