By: Harihar Swarup
Ahmed Patel was a soft spoken gentleman, never losing his temper. He was very close to the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. So much so he was known as one of the Rajiv Gandhi boys. Whenever Rajiv visited Gujarat, a familiar figure was always rushing towards, carrying a plastic bag. He would hand over the contents— sev bhusa, chura, peanuts to the Prime Minister or to his private secretary, V George. Ahmed was treasurer of the AICC at the time of his death. He also held the position of political secretary to Congress President, Sonia Gandhi and popularly addressed as ‘Ahmed Bhai”.
Ahmed Patel, who then represented Borarch constituency in the Lok Sabha was member of Rajya Sabha at the time of his death. Rajiv Gandhi wanted to build Ahmed Bhai as the new generation of Congress leadership to replace the aging old guards. He always used to say that Ahmed Bhai and others like him would make 21st century Congress. That was why Rajiv pitch-forked the young Ahmed Patel to the post of joint secretary and then secretary of AICC.
By 1986, Rajiv Gandhi had formalized the plan for phasing out the old decaying generation of leadership in the state units of the congress and replacing them with young and his confidence. As per plan Ahmed Bhai was sent to Gujarat, Tariq Ahmed to Bihar, Oscar Fernandes to Karnataka and Ashok Gehlot to Rajasthan. They all came to be known as ‘Rajiv boys’ or ‘computer boys’. The old generation leadership like Kamlapati Tripathi, Uma Shankar Dikshit and many like the them ridiculed and despised the young leaders and even called them “na naturbekar launde” (in experienced lads).
Ahmed Bhai did a commendable job as PCC President with all the energy and dedication of a young leader and the Congress party made a sizeable contribution in tiding over worst drought in Gujarat. Unfortunately he developed sharp differences with the then Chief Minister Amar Singh Chaudhary. Almost, at the same time, the Congress candidate was defeated in a by-election to Godhra constituency.
The following months were worse: Ahmed Bhai lost in 1989 general elections from Boroach constituency. In 1991 mid-term too, he again suffered defeat by a narrow margin but continued his association with the organization and his constituency. He then entered the Rajya Sabha.
The organizational elections, held almost after two decades at the Trupathi plenum in April 1992, proved another turning point in Ahmed Bhai career; he was elected to working committee and appointed general secretary by Narasimha Rao.
After Sonia Gandhi took over the Congress presidentship, Ahmed became the eyes and ears of Sonia Gandhi. Sonia depended on him for every decision, political or otherwise. He tackled the groupism in the state Congresses as also problems of the Congress state governments with high efficiency as he was most accessible and had no airs like many others who wielded power at that time. At a time, when the Congress organization is fighting an existential battle and Sonia is also not well, the death of Ahmed Patel is a big loss to the Congress Party. It will be difficult for the GoP to fill this void. (IPA Service)