Sonia Gandhi Ahmed Patel
In this file photo dated Oct. 12, 2012, Congress President Sonia Gandhi with her political adviser Ahmed Patel at an election campaign rally in Rajkot. Patel died on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at a Delhi hospital due to multiple organ failure more than a month after he was tested positive for COVID-19. Image Credit: PTI

New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of leaders across party lines on Wednesday condoled the death of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel and hailed his contribution to his party and public life.

Patel, 71, the quintessential backroom strategist for the Congress, died at a Gurugram hospital in the early hours of Wednesday due to multiple organ failure more than a month after he tested positive for COVID-19.

President Kovind said he was distressed to learn that Patel is no more.

“An astute Parliamentarian, Shri Patel combined the skills of a strategist and the charm of a mass leader. His amiability won him friends across party lines. My condolences to his family and friends,” Kovind tweeted.

The vice president said he was deeply saddened. “He was an able parliamentarian and always maintained cordial relations with leaders across the political spectrum,” the Vice-President Secretariat tweeted quoting Naidu.

Condoling the death, Prime Minister Modi said he was saddened by the demise of the leader whose role in strengthening the Congress will always be remembered. “Known for his sharp mind, his role in strengthening the Congress Party would always be remembered. Spoke to his son Faisal and expressed condolences. May Ahmed Bhai’s soul rest in peace,” the prime minister said in a tweet.

Congress leaders condoled the demise of senior party leader Ahmed Patel on Wednesday, with Sonia Gandhi mourning the loss of an “irreplaceable comrade” and Rahul Gandhi saying he “lived and breathed Congress” and stood with the party through its most difficult times.

In her condolence message for Patel, who served as her political secretary for many years and was the AICC treasurer, party chief Sonia Gandhi said, “In Shri Ahmed Patel, I have lost a colleague, whose entire life was dedicated to the Congress Party.”

His faithfulness and dedication, commitment to his duty, always being there to help and generosity were rare qualities that distinguished him from others, she added. “I have lost an irreplaceable comrade, a faithful colleague and a friend. I mourn his passing and I feel deeply for his bereaved family to whom I offer my sincere feelings of empathy and support,” the Congress president said.

Ace troubleshooter

Considered as the Congress party’s man Friday, Patel was an 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.

He was an old style politician who had a cross party outreach and had friends everywhere. In 2007, when Sonia Gandhi gave a task wanted to launch Rahul Gandhi in Uttar Pradesh, it was Patel who managed it.

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 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 humble in his dealings.

Patel was one of the youngest leaders during his time when he was picked by Rajiv 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.

Congress treasurer

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 Bharuch, Gujarat, in 1976. As 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 Jawahar Bhawan.

His acumen was put to the test during the 2017 Rajya Sabha elections when he defeated the BJP candidate.

During the recent Congress turmoil, he stood like a rock behind the Gandhis in the CWC and even slammed his friends for writing a letter to Sonia Gandhi.