NEW DELHI: The sudden demise of Ahmed Patel is an incalculable loss for the Congress. And not just because he had an uncanny knack of reconciling differences between factions and acting as a bridge between opposition and other stakeholders.
But, rather, because of his immense capacity for resource generation; and more so after the demise of Murli Deora who kept the cash registers perpetually ringing in the party headquarters.
Only ‘Ahmed Bhai’ is privy to where the Congress funds were parked by him in his capacity as the AICC treasurer, the post he took over from the aged Motilal Vora.
No wonder Sonia Gandhi rightly described him as an "irreplaceable comrade."
His importance to the party was manifest in organisational general secretary K C Venugopal declaring that the party flag would fly at half-mast for three days. Some even wanted his body brought to the AICC headquarters to enable party members to pay him homage, but the idea was dropped due to the Covid protocol.
The demise could not have come at a worse time for the rudderless Congress. ‘Ahmed Bhai’ was the only leader who could have brought the warring factions to the negotiation table; he alone had a good rapport with the seniors -- the Group of 23 who had publicly expressed concern over the drift. Sonia would have listened to him before anointing Rahul as the party president.
Another veteran, who could have played a role in managing the conflict, is former defence minister A K Antony, but he is seriously ill. Moreover, Antony has taken a partisan position by attacking the seniors who had formed the Group of 23.
There are leaders like Mallikarjun Kharge as also Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Punjab CM Capt. Amarinder Singh who could play a role in resolving disputes but none has Ahmed Bhai's acumen and resourcefulness.
It will be no surprise if the organisational elections planned in January-February are put off by a few months.
‘Ahmed Bhai’ always suspected that Rahul wanted to cut him to size because of the kind of influence he wielded over Sonia Gandhi. But Sonia’s days are passé, she made full use of her gifted ‘comrade;’ it is Rahul who will not find another interlocutor who is both trustworthy and efficient.