RIP Ahmed Patel: The Congress troubleshooter, master strategist

A quintessential backroom operator, Patel shunned the limelight
Last Updated 25 November 2020, 10:02 IST

Ahmed Patel, who breathed his last on Wednesday morning, was Congress’s master strategist and a trusted lieutenant of three generations of the Gandhi family.

Patel, 71, was handpicked by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the age of 28 to contest the Lok Sabha elections in 1977 from Bharuch in Gujarat, which he won bucking the Janata Party wave in the post-Emergency polls.

Patel was considered as the most powerful leader in the Congress, having served as a key aide to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 and later as political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi from 2001 to 2017.

Read | Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel passes away

“I have lost as irreplaceable comrade, a faithful colleague and a friend,” the Congress President said in a condolence message.

Patel’s network of friends and well wishers was vast nurtured over the years with his personal touch, a quality that helped him steer the Congress in times of crises.

A quintessential backroom operator, Patel shunned the limelight and several offers to join the UPA government between 2004 and 2014, opting to keep the coalition government safe whenever it hit a rough patch.

Patel played a key role in winning the support of Samajwadi Party in 2008 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh faced the no confidence vote after the Left parties withdrew support over differences of the India-US civil nuclear deal.

Born on August 21, 1949 at Piraman village near Bharuch, Patel rose in the ranks in the Congress after being spotted by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1977. He represented Gujarat in Parliament for eight terms – three as a Lok Sabha member and five in the Rajya Sabha.

The latest victory in the Rajya Sabha elections was in 2017 when the then BJP President Amit Shah had queered the pitch for him by fielding a candidate in what would have been a smooth election.

From being the president of a taluka panchayat to being the trusted lieutenant of the Gandhi family for four decades, Patel had his finger on the pulse of the Congress, which gave him the ability to spot a crisis situation early on.

After Rahul Gandhi became Congress President, Patel was appointed as the AICC Treasurer in August 2018, at a time when the party was passing through a financial crisis.

A troubleshooter for the party, Patel’s demise comes at a time when the Congress is facing a crisis over the leadership issue and senior leaders such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal have renewed call for a complete overhaul of the Congress organisation after the Bihar election debacle.

(Published 25 November 2020, 04:36 IST)

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