The Congress’ key trouble-shooter and backroom manager, Ahmed Patel’s death is a massive loss for the grand old party. The party will miss its ‘crisis manager’ more because it is passing through a terrible political phase, with unending poll debacles resulting in internal war of words and churning.
Ahmed Patel always handled all crises within the party patiently and without losing his cool. He used to fight his battle on his own. That’s exactly what happened when he fought his last battle for life. He passed away silently. Everyone was shocked and was finding it difficult to believe the news of his passing away. Everyone was sure that he would defeat the coronavirus infection.
With the demise of Patel, the big question is who will fill the void that he left behind as a crisis manager for the Congress. Who will be his replacement of Ahmed Patel who used to work as a bridge between veterans and younger leaders? There is no denying that Patel’s opponents were also appreciative of his political acumen. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first to offer his condolences to Patel soon after the news of his death came. Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi, former PM Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot expressed grief over his sad demise and described it as their personal loss.
Ahmed Patel was quite young when he became an MP in 1977. The backroom crisis manager and anchorman for the Congress, Patel held many posts in the party. But his role became more important in 2001 when he got the post of political advisor to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and paved the way for the party getting back to power. He used to take decisions from behind the curtain and Sonia used to give her approval.
But the party started falling on bad days even as Rahul Gandhi began interfering in the processes leading to key decisions. Rahul’s interference in UPA II got more intense. He started adopting a new role banking on young leaders. Ahmed Patel was definitely in the key position but his role was reduced to proverbial status of “Bheeshma” in the Mahabharata who was hard pressed to reverse the decisions which were bad for the empire.
This led to Congress’ defeat in 2014 LS polls followed by a series of electoral defeats which are still unstoppable. As Congress boss Rahul Gandhi took decisions which were not good for the party’s future and Patel used to give tacit consent. The Congress again lost in 2019 following which Rahul resigned as party president. When Sonia took charge of the party, Patel played a big role and got active to tackle the terrible situation that the party was facing.
Ahmed Patel played a key role in resolving the Rajasthan crisis. Then came the phase when a group of 23 leaders wrote to Sonia Gandhi seeking transformations in the party. Even as he was handling the situation but, unfortunately, he contracted corona infection.
Now that he is no more, the question is who will be the party’s crisis-manager like him. But there is none in sight who could fill the void.
It was after a struggle of 22 years when Patel could get the post of political secretary. He did not allow himself to be a high-profile leader. His behaviour remained unchanged whether the party was in power or in opposition. It is certain that Rahul Gandhi will take over the party’s charge sooner or later. But the question is whether he will give this responsibility to anyone from his existing team or he will bring up some trusted old guard. The old-generation Hindi-speaking leaders who are close to Rahul Gandhi include Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.