Congress ace troubleshooter Ahmed Bhai passed away on Wednesday due to multi organ failure. He was under treatment for post-covid complications.
Considered as the Congress party's man Friday, Patel was the most efficient and ace troubleshooter and pacifier for the party. In 2008 when the UPA government was facing confidence motion after the Left withdrew support, he managed to muster enough numbers for the government to survive.
The void created by his demise will not be filled in the party as he was an old style politician who had a cross party outreach and had friends everywhere. In 2007, when Sonia Gandhi gave a task to Patel to launch Rahul Gandhi in Uttar Pradesh, it was Patel who managed each and everything. In Amroha, a Muslim dominated seat, Rahul Gandhi drew a huge crowd. When this reporter asked the local MP, an independent that time, he said "Ahmed Bhai Kahte hai tau karna padta hai (We have to do what Ahmed Bhai says". Such was Patel's outreach.
He was a backroom boy with all his skills at hand who could tell you which way the wind is blowing in politics. In 2019, before the General Elections he knew that the position of his party was not good and he expressed this before the media. His address at the 23 Mother Teresa Crescent was the most sought after address after the 10 Janpath.
Born in Bharuch, on August 21, 1949 in Gujarat, he rose to be one of the most powerful politicians in the country. During the UPA regime even ministers and chief ministers used to wait to get an appointment from his office. Though he was powerful, he was most humble in his conduct while dealing with anyone. He was on call for each journalist also.
Patel was one of the youngest leaders during his time when he was picked by Rajjv Gandhi to lead the Gujarat Congress. He later joined Rajiv's team as the parliamentary secretary, and after Sonia Gandhi took over he became her closest confidante and the only channel to reach her.
He was appointed treasurer by Rahul Gandhi in his tenure as the party resident because of his abilities to reach out to anyone. Patel believed in maintaining relations across the fence also.
Ahmed Patel started his political career by contesting the local body elections in the Bharuch in his home state Gujarat in 1976. He was the parliamentary secretary to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Patel was active in setting up the Narmada Management Authority to monitor the Sardar Sarovar Project.
Ahead of Jawaharlal Nehru's centenary celebration, Patel was appointed the secretary of the Jawahar Bhawan Trust in 1988. Rajiv Gandhi asked him to supervise the construction of the Jawahar Bhawan in 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 Nehru's birth centenary celebrations, he successfully completed the work of the Jawahar Bhawan.
As he was humble, he also was sharp. And his acumen was put to test during the 2017 Rajya Sabha elections when he defeated the BJP candidate despite Amit Shah's all might.
During the recent Congress turmoil, he stood like a rock behind the Gandhi's in the CWC and even slammed his friends for writing a letter to Sonia Gandhi.
Patel was considered as a friend of journalists. He would call reporters late night. But would never give a direct quote. One had to judge him, according to the reply he gave.
When there was a change of guard in Maharashtra after the then Chief Minister Ashok Chavan's name propped up in the Adarsh Society scam, he was the only one to provide a lead to the journalists. And his curt answer was, "Prithvi, but don't quote me".
The journalists will equally miss him. But for the Congress and the party high command the loss is too big and hard, especially in these times when the party is reeling under the pressure of non-performance.