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Opinion

Ahmed Patel: a low-profile problem solver and a high-powered strategist

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New Delhi Ahmed Patel, the one person to whom congressional leaders turn in times of crisis and known as the party’s Chanakya for his political acumen, died early Wednesday at the age of 71 of post-Covid-19 complications. His death, announced in a tweet by his son Faisal, was mourned by parties that crossed ideological lines in testimony of his wide consideration as a political tactician.

“With deep pain and sorrow, I regret to announce the sad and untimely death of my father, Mr. Ahmed Patel, on 11/25/2020 at 3:30 am. After testing positive for Covid-19 about a month ago, his health worsened further due to multiple organ failure, ”Faisal Patel tweeted.

The veteran congressional politician, a five-time Rajya Sabha member and a two-time Lok Sabha member, had been admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) at Gurugram’s Medanta Hospital on November 15. Patel, on October 1, announced on Twitter that he had contracted the coronavirus disease and asked people who had recently come into contact with him to isolate themselves.

Patel’s passing, leaving his wife, son and daughter behind, is a severe blow to Congress and its president Sonia Gandhi, whom he served as a political secretary for nearly 17 years. On Monday, former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, another congressional veteran who rose from the grassroots and led the state towards peace after decades of insurgency, died, also from complications from Covid-19.

Popularly known as Babu bhai, Ahmed bhai and the AP in political circles, Patel had for decades been the crisis director, the chief problem solver and political strategist in Congress, whose leaders effusively mourned his death.

“I have lost an irreplaceable companion, a faithful companion and a friend. I am sorry for his passing and I am deeply sorry for his grieving family, to whom I offer my sincere feelings of empathy and support, ”said Sonia Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi said Patel “lived and breathed Congress” and supported the party in its most difficult moments. “It is a sad day. Shri Ahmed Patel was a pillar of Congress. Congress lived and breathed and was with the party in its most difficult moments. It was a great asset, ”he said.

Congress Secretary General Priyanka Gandhi Vadra described Patel not only as a wise and experienced colleague to whom she constantly turned for advice and advice, but also as a friend “who supported us all, steadfast, loyal and trustworthy. until the end”. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: “Ahmed Patel ji was one of the most trusted leaders of the Congress Party and a great friend of mine. His passing is an irreparable loss for the Congress Party. “

As a show of respect for the deceased leader, the congressional flag will fly at half mast for the next three days.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined congressional leaders and politicians from other parties in mourning the death of Patel in a rare show of unity that crossed ideological and party lines .

“An astute MP, Shri Patel combined the skills of a strategist and the charm of a mass leader. His kindness won him friends through party lines. My condolences to his family and friends, ”the president tweeted.

Naidu called Patel a capable MP who had always maintained cordial relationships across the political spectrum. Modi tweeted: “Known for his sharp mind, his role in strengthening the Congress Party will always be remembered. He spoke with his son Faisal and expressed his condolences. May Ahmed Bhai’s soul rest in peace. “

In a tweet, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) head JP Nadda wrote: “Deeply distraught upon learning of the passing of veteran Congress leader Shri Ahmed Patel Ji. I pray for strength for family members and their followers in this hour of pain. Om Shanti “.

Union ministers Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Prakash Javadekar, and Smriti Irani were joined by various chief ministers of state, both ruled by Congress and other parties, and allies and rivals to pay tribute to Patel and offer his condolences to his family. .

Maharashtra Prime Minister Uddhav Thackeray said Patel played a leading role in the formation of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government (MVA), which comprises the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and Congress, a year ago.

“The Congress party has lost its Chanakya with the disappearance of Patel, while the MVA government has lost a guiding light. I was helped by their experience and guidance when the MVA government was formed, ”Thackeray said.

It was not only in forging an unlikely coalition government in Maharashtra that Patel’s negotiating skills were evident. The veteran also played a role in defusing a crisis caused by a letter written in August by 23 senior congressional leaders, including his Rajya Sabha colleagues, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal, calling for internal elections in the party and introspection.

The letter was seen as an attack on the Gandhi family and the Rahul Gandhi team for their refusal to take over the match. Patel helped foil a possible rebellion, met Sibal personally, and spoke with Azad. Patel and his colleagues carefully organized a meeting of the Congressional Working Committee on August 24, just two days after the letter was made public. At the meeting, leader after leader praised Sonia Gandhi’s leadership and asked her to remain as head of Congress to a new president. is elected within six months. Azad was attacked by most of the other CWC members and with the announcement of a timetable for internal elections, an immediate crisis was averted.

The July crisis in Rajasthan caused by a confrontation between Prime Minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot erupted after Patel helped resolve a compromise by setting up a committee to address the latter’s complaints against the CM. Pilot, who had been AWOL with 18 MLA, returned to the assembly a week later.

Patel also played a pivotal role in the Manmohan Singh government who won the 2008 vote of confidence on the Indo-US nuclear deal, enlisting the support of the Samajwadi Party to counter the threat posed by the loss of support from the Indus parties. left, who bitterly opposed the deal.

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