Ahmed Patel: The defender departs when crisis-torn Congress needs him most

economictimes.indiatimes.com
5 min read
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Ahmed Patel tried to soothe the feelings of those he could not favour in factional feuds by giving them a patient hearing with a soothing smile to make them happy. Congress has been left without its healer when it needs him most.
It's a coincidence that Ahmed Patel and Tarun Gogoi died in the span of three days. Both were handpicked by prime minister and party president Indira Gandhi as AICC joint secretaries attached to Rajiv Gandhi, when he was initiated into the labyrinth of politics as Congress general secretary shortly after her original political heir Sanjay Gandhi died in a plane crash. In his over four-decade political career, Patel progressed from a committed Congress soldier to a deft commander and defender of Congress' faith, establishment and the now-fading durbar of the Gandhis. Hence, it was only natural that when he breathed his last, the immediate worry in Congress circles was the impact his absence would have on the party, torn apart by a lingering mess during its generational and operational shift.The last mission Patel attempted before he was admitted to hospital was to control the swelling anger and frustration within Congress, which was symbolically manifested in the joint letter many seniors wrote. Using his leverage as a long-standing friend and colleague, he kept appealing privately to the unhappy veterans to hold on, assuring them of a solution and reconciliation through dialogue with the top leader. The demise of a leader who helped Congress negotiate its fault lines leaves the party in a precarious balance.Sonia Gandhi's obituary references reflected Patel's standing: "I have lost an irreplaceable comrade, faithful colleague and a friend". She had seen her mother-in-law trusting Patel with Rajiv's debut and he chose Patel along with Oscar Fernandes and Arun Singh as his parliamentary secretaries, when he became PM. She had also seen him as the link that connected Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri establishments with 10…
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