Ahmed Patel, a senior leader of the Indian National Congress party, was considered the most influential person in the party after the Gandhi family. More than anything, a political secretary to the Congress President Sonia Gandhi since 2001 and is widely credited with the party’s performance in 2004 and 2009. Patel had been a crucial adviser of Sonia even before she stepped into politics. It was said that Sonia was only a namesake president while Patel was the actual head of the Congress Working Committee. CWC is the highest executive body of Congress.
Patel’s political journey began when he became the youngest Parliamentarian to win a Lok Sabha seat from Bharuch in Gujarat in 1977, at the age of 26. His victory came against the grain, with the Congress party having been defeated by the Janata Party after Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. All the party’s top leaders, including Gandhi herself, had been defeated. From January to September 1985 Patel was the Parliamentary Secretary to then, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Patel was a trusted aide of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It was this time he came close to Sonia Gandhi, during the years of Narsimha Rao’s government he batted for the Gandhi family and their position in the Congress Party. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, Ahmed Patel took care of the entire family, whether it was the education of Rahul and Priyanka or any financial matter. He served the family like a loyal servant.
In 1998 Patel played an important role in preparing Sonia to take charge of party affairs and in dethroning Sitaram Kesri to install her as party president. Sonia’s blind trust in Patel is attributed to the fact that he never abused his power, nor sought to use his proximity to the Gandhi clan to further any personal ambition. Everybody in Congress was aware that had more influence than the prime minister, but he never misused that power to seek personal benefits. Another reason for this trust is that when the Congress was at a low decline and everyone else deserted the party, Patel remained steadfastly loyal. As the party continues to lose Assembly elections one after the other, following the drubbing it received in the Lok Sabha polls, everyone in the party has been blaming the top leadership for it. However, Patel has not said a word. It shows how the ebb and flow of electoral politics fails to weaken the strength of the bond shared by Sonia and Patel. A low-profile politician who never accepted any ministerial positions at the centre, He has always preferred to be a backroom strategist, although from joint secretary to Parliamentary secretary and the all-powerful treasurer of Congress.
Rahul Gandhi was of the opinion that Ahmed Patel is responsible for Congress’ decline in the Country. So when Mamta Banerjee offered Ahmed Patel a Rajya Sabha seat from West Bengal. Rahul refused instead elected Pradip Bhattacharya from West Bengal and asked Patel to prove his might by winning in Rajya Sabha from Gujarat. Patel actually need not please junior Gandhi because he was aware of the party’s fate without him. Ahmed Patel has been in the Rajya Sabha for the last 25 years. Having been with the party since Rajiv Gandhi’s time, he is among the top five leaders in the party today. He is the man, the lieutenant for the party. Also, his name has an Ahmed and a Patel in it, which is self-explanatory. But it isn’t just the loss of his long-held seat in the Rajya Sabha but the way he lost it that will be cataclysmic for the Congress.
So, Ahmed Patel finally wins. He would have lost for sure had not the Congress brilliantly pointed out two invalid votes to the election commission. Apparently, two of the rebel Congress MLAs who voted for the BJP candidate showed their ballot papers to Amit Shah, which is illegal because it was supposed to be a secret vote. Since 2014 Congress has seen its low for a long time, but leaders like Patel have proven to be a great support to the family and Congress party. Patel, a staunch loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family and Congress Party’s top strategist, passed away at a Gurugram hospital on Wednesday due to multi-organ failure. Patel, 71, was suffering from complications related to Covid-19. Ahmed Patel was the go-to man in the Congress who kept a low profile but quietly wielded power and meticulously executed decisions of the leadership. He served as an effective link between the party and government during the two terms of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) between 2004 and 2014. As political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, he had access to leadership that no other leader in the party had and worked the channels to work out various issues. His rapport with party leaders across generations came in handy in the role as he efficiently executed decisions while acting as a bridge between the top leadership and party functionaries at various levels. Patel was also the party’s key link with leaders across the political divide. While he played a key role in managing the party’s ties with allies when the United Progressive Alliance governments were in power, he worked equations when the party was not in power to see that Congress remained the principal pole in opposition and worked closely with other parties during joint programmes against the BJP-led government. On the basis of his organisational skills, he was appointed the secretary of the Jawahar Bhawan Trust in 1988. He was asked by Rajiv Gandhi to supervise the construction of Jawahar Bhawan on New Delhi’s Raisina Road, a project which had been stalled for more than a decade. In a record one year, just in time for Jawaharlal Nehru’s birth centenary celebrations, Patel successfully created Jawahar Bhawan. A long-serving member of the Congress Working Committee, he was among those who contested and won elections to the party’s highest decision-making body. Patel had earlier also served as the treasurer of the party when Congress was out of power from 1996-2000. He had also been involved with the work of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. He was appointed party treasurer in August 2018 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections as Congress faced a fund crunch. The appointment came when Rahul Gandhi was the party president showing his resourcefulness and indispensability to the party. He was unhappy over the letter that a group of 23 Congress leaders wrote to Sonia giving their suggestions for the party’s revamp and instead wanted them to convey their views by meeting her.
During the UPA Government regime between 2004 and 2014, Patel was one of the chief trouble-shooters, coordinators, and translators between the government and party. Patel died on 25 November 2020 due to multiple organ failures stemming from COVID-19. Many Congress veterans died one by one, due to old age. Congress of the New generation needs someone to replace all these guiding figures, or else the demise of Congress is inevitable.