|Indian Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi
addresses the media in New Delhi, India, Thursday, March 23, 2006. Sonia
Gandhi, the head of governing coalition, steps down as a member of
Parliament amid controversy over whether she also holds another
New Delhi, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Sonia Gandhi, head of
India's ruling coalition and president of the Congress party, Thursday stunned
India by resigning as a member of parliament (MP) in order to end an acrimonious
row over her holding an "office of profit" and vowed to fight elections again.
Gandhi announced her dramatic decision at her
residence in a bid to puncture an opposition campaign that accused the
government of trying to protect her by enacting a special ordinance.
Reading out a prepared statement in Hindi, she said
that she resigned both as a member of parliament and head of the National
Advisory Council, which advises Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on
development matters. This is the post that had become the focal point of the
"I have done this because I think it is the right
thing to do," Indo-Asian News Service quoted Sonia Gandhi as saying.
But the 59-year-old Gandhi will remain the party's
president and chairperson of India's ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Gandhi vowed to fight parliamentary elections again
from Rae Bareli, a sprawling mainly agrarian constituency in Uttar Pradesh from
where she won in 2004 and which was earlier represented by her mother-in-law and
prime minister Indira Gandhi.
As news of her imminent resignation spread, hundreds
of Congress party's supporters converged outside her residence and raised
slogans hailing Gandhi and urging her not to resign.
Gandhi's decision followed a high-pitched anti-Sonia
campaign unleashed principally by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Samajwadi
Party after the latter's Jaya Bachchan was stripped of her Rajya Sabha
membership over a similar accusation of holding an"office of profit" while being
Bachchan, wife of Bollywood superstar Amitabh
Bachchan, once exited from parliament, an incensed Samajwadi Party and the BJP
halted Indian parliament session with vocal protests, accusing the Indian
government of preparing to enact an ordinance to protect Gandhi.
Although several other MPs are also embroiled in the
controversy, these two parties concentrated their fire on Gandhi.
Moments after Gandhi's announcement, BJP spokesperson
Arun Jaitley poured contempt on the Congress president, saying thus was a
desperate attempt to save her face.
The reference was to the sudden adjournment of
parliament Wednesday amid media reports that the government planned to come out
with the ordinance with retrospective effect to nullify a 1959 rule that bars
MPs from holding any post that would be deemed an "office of profit". Enditem