Congress stalwart Ahmed Patel’s untimely demise marks the end of an era in the grand old party, which is currently consumed by deep internal distrust and anxiety.
Widely acknowledged as Congress’ chief crisis manager, Patel shadowed Sonia Gandhi as political secretary for 19 out of 22 years she served in the post.
“I have lost an irreplaceable comrade, a faithful colleague and a friend,” Sonia lamented, as tributes flowed from across the spectrum, with PM Narendra Modi hailing Patel’s role in strengthening the Congress and for his “sharp mind”. Patel’s indispensability to Sonia was evident from her reliance on him through the tenure as the longest-serving Congress chief.
Patel was an eight term parliamentarian — thrice from the Lok Sabha and five times in the Rajya Sabha.
Sonia depended on Patel not only to negotiate the complex terrains of a 135-year-old institution, but also to engage the broad spectrum of non-BJP forces bringing the alliance experiment to fruition in UPA-1. Among several others, the most abiding message of Patel’s life was loyalty to leadership. Barring once when he resigned as AICC Treasurer, Patel always backed the high command up until recently when he stoutly challenged the 23 leaders who voiced a rebellion against Sonia Gandhi.