Will Sonia Gandhi seek a replacement for Ahmed Patel?
New Delhi, Nov 26: Will Sonia Gandhi seek a replacement for Ahmed Patel who worked as her political secretary for over a decade and had become an undisputed power center? While this could be a question mark for all top leaders in the Congress party, Sonia herself gave an answer when she described Ahmedbhai as an “ irreplaceable comrade, a faithful colleague, and friend”. Patel passed away yesterday due to multi-organ failure in course of his post-covid complications.
Ahmed Patel was a chosen one after several others, including Ambika Soni and Oscar Fernandes, who failed to pass muster with Sonia Gandhi in the heyday of power. Sonia Gandhi ruled a decade of UPA regime through Ahmedbhai who was the most important go-between. A senior Congress leader and former union minister from Gujarat who once shared best of equations with Patel but fell out later would give a full mark to the deceased for keeping many secrets to his chest. According to the Congress leader, Ahmedbhai could not be touched even by Rahul Gandhi when he assumed charge as party president in 2017.
An unassuming personality, Ahmedbhai left legions of friends and admirers in politics, bureaucracy, and the media many of whom were direct beneficiaries of his largesse. During UPA II, a journalist covering Congress beat was upset finding the name missing from the list of correspondents accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in of his foreign tours. Ahmed Bhai did not take a minute to get the name included when approached. The editor of a major daily would not publish a story from an outstation correspondent linking Ahmedbhai’s name in a deal. The correspondent got a transfer letter soon. Such was his influence and reach, he rarely came under attack from any quarter.
To find a replacement for such a man would not be easy. It is another matter that Sonia Gandhi would need a person of her confidence to deal with party matters even for the brief period that she may remain in office. Party sources say she is not in the habit of dealing one-on-one on party matters. It was Ahmedbhai who acted as a crucial go-between. So who could the person be, even in the short run? He has to be a hands-on man with easy access to one and all, including the Opposition and the ruling party and who could be relied upon by all sides. By virtue of his seniority and inclination, Ghulam Nabi Azad could have fitted the bill. But he may have burnt the bridge through his recent unintended jibes on the leadership. Anand Sharma could be no. Some say Jairam Ramesh is the man to watch. He is said to be close to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul both.
It is surmised that Sonia would much rather depend on leaders like A.K.Antony for advice on party matters than formally appoint someone. In any case, she is unlikely to continue as party chief for long because of her health conditions. The task would fall on Rahul Gandhi who, it is believed, would ultimately become Congress President again.
If and when Rahul takes over, he would have his own team. In some ways, Ahmedbhai’s departure would pave the way for a completely new team. The senior leaders may have their place as advisors but the shots will be called by the new team.
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