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Sonia Gandhi regains moral high ground in India


NEW DELHI, March 24, 2006 A decision by India's ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi to quit her parliamentary seat to avoid a conflict of interest has seen her regain the moral high ground but her party remains tarnished, analysts said Friday.
Gandhi resigned from parliament Thursday after the opposition charged she had wrongfully held another salaried public post.
"She's signaling that she is not interested in power and in Indian politics that makes her influence and capability actually go up," said political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan. "She is now sitting pretty."
Gandhi cited her "inner conscience" when she stepped down in a move that echoed her decision not to become prime minister after leading the Congress party to an upset victory in the 2004 election.
"Following the principles of probity and my inner conscience I am resigning my post in the parliament," Gandhi said Thursday, adding however she would run again for the seat in India's elected lower house.
The 59-year-old Gandhi said she would also quit as chairwoman of the National Advisory Council (NAC), set up to implement her government's electoral pledges.
Right-wing opponents had charged that Italian-born Gandhi was breaking regulations by holding both posts and that the Congress adjourned parliament so it could push through a cabinet ordinance to save her.
Rangarajan said the unexpected resignation had put the opposition in a bind.
"They banked their strategy on her holding on," said Rangarajan. "Now all that goes out of the window."
India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) responded by pouring scorn on Gandhi's gesture.
"She has become a victim of her own conspiracy and by resigning she is trying to save face," said BJP spokesman Arun Jaitley. "This grandstanding will not pay any dividend."