A Requiem to Ahmed Patel, the Political Guru of Sonia Gandhi

Ahmed Patel breathed his last in the early hours of November 25. He was 71. He was diagnosed with the Chinese virus (Sars Cov-2) on October 1 and was under treatment at Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon district of Haryana from November 15.

Ahmed Patel, at a Swearing-in Ceremony, at Parliament House, in New Delhi on August 28, 2017.

Ahmed Patel, was called by Frontline magazine as a key strategist, a back-room crisis manager, troubleshooter and anchorman of the Congress. It is an understatement. He was designated as political advisor to Smt. Sonia Gandhi, th President of Congress Party which is a euphemism for a Guru. Frontline Magazine also called him a man with exceptional organisational skills, he was also instrumental in forging coalitions of the most unlikely partners. A case in point is the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance in Maharashtra, comprising the Shiv Sena, the Congress, and the the Nationalist Congress Party.

Master of 3 M’s.

These tributes do not do justice to Patel. He was master of three M’s, these being 1) Media, 2) Money and 3) Muslims. He was master manager of media and after his death a few journalists have called him the super-editor of Lutyens Media. His quality was that he never failed to oblige any journalist of any hue. This brought in tremendous results till Arnab Goswami arrived with his Republic TV. Patel is also credited with dirty tricks department of media, which helped the defeat of of BJP government in 2004.

Patel was also incharge of the funds of Congress and allegedly the dirty money. He was known as a person who could mobilise funds for the party. He played a key role in keeping the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) together. Though embroiled in a cash-for-votes scam in 2008, he was exonerated by a parliamentary committee. The journalist who had the tape of sting operation, allegedly suppressed it. When an employee of Congress party raided in connection with illicit cash just prior to elections of 2019, Patel was first to reach and help out that employee. More recently, the Enforcement Directorate summoned him on money-laundering charges, a move that he claimed was allegedly spurred by the vendetta politics.

People have a clue about the above activities of Patel even if they do not know the extent of it. But what is not known is that the Patel is the manager of secular politics of India. Hope you understand the meaning of secular politics in India. It means the politics of Muslim Identity. So much so that some journalists and other people have written on social media that after the death of Patel, there is one less agent of ISI (of Pakistan) in India. But as stated above, as reported by frontline magazne, Patel was able to stitch up coalition in Maharashtra. The official statement of Congress Party was that it has been arrived by consultation with ground level (read Mulla and Molana). Patel would visit different Mosque each Friday to keep in touch with the ground level workers of the cause.

During 2004-2014, Congress Party was in Government of India and Ahmed Patel payed very crucial role in that Government. The media advisor of then Prime Minister has written about the role of Ahmed Patel in his book The Accidental Prime Minister as under:

Ahmed Patel in “The Accidental Prime Minister“:

“Apart from the weekly meeting of the Congress ‘core group’, initially comprising Sonia, the PM, Arjun Singh, A.K. Antony, Pranab Mukherjee and Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, and messages exchanged through two intermediaries, Pulok and Patel, or occasional telephone conversations, there was not much other regular contact between Dr Singh and Sonia in the early years of UPA-1. The core group met regularly at 7 RCR. Sonia would arrive first and get her exclusive ten minutes with Dr Singh. That was when the two spoke to each other in private. Once their one-to-one conversation was over, the others would be invited in. Dr Singh rarely spoke in the core-group meetings. He would hear what others had to say and take his decisions after having another word with Sonia.”

“On a daily and regular basis, messages between Sonia and the PM were conveyed either by Ahmed Patel or Pulok Chatterjee. While Pulok met Sonia regularly to brief her on policy issues and seek her guidance on key decisions, Ahmed Patel was the political link between Sonia and Dr Singh. Patel would visit South Block mainly to lobby with Pulok for the inclusion of names of Congress party members on the boards of public enterprises and nationalized banks.”

Patel also met the PM from time to time and these meetings were invariably held at 7 RCR. Any increase in the frequency of his visits was almost always a signal of an impending Cabinet reshuffle. Patel was the one who carried, to and fro, the list of names of people to be included or dropped from the council of ministers. Patel was always very courteous and polite. As Sonia’s trusted aide, he never behaved in a manner that would demonstrate his real power. With Dr Singh he was particularly polite and deferential in his behaviour. As Sonia’s chosen courier, he acquired the power to influence decision-making in such matters till the very end. On one occasion, he arrived at 7 RCR just minutes before the PM’s letter to the President listing the names of MPs to be sworn in as ministers in a reshuffle was dispatched. Since the letter had been typed and signed and was ready to be delivered, and the President was waiting to receive it, it was decided that instead of wasting time retyping the letter, the new name being canvassed by Patel would be typed over an existing name, with that name being painted over with whitener. Thus was Andhra MP Subbirami Reddy accommodated into the council of ministers in January 2006, after white paint had been applied over the name of Harish Rawat, an MP from Uttarakhand, who is now the chief minister of that state.

I had very little to do with Patel and during the few times we interacted he was always warm and friendly. I only had two substantive conversations with him during my time at the PMO. The first occurred shortly after Narasimha Rao died. I had accompanied Dr Singh to Rao’s house on Delhi’s Motilal Nehru Marg. As the PM entered the house, Patel pulled me aside……..However, Patel wanted me to encourage Narasimha Rao’s sons, Ranga and Prabhakar, and his daughter, Vani, to take their father’s body to Hyderabad for cremation. Clearly, it seemed to me, Sonia did not want a memorial for Rao anywhere in Delhi……….I reflected for a few minutes on Patel’s request and felt it would not be appropriate for me to convey this message to the family. They had every right to make the demand they were making. Why should I involve myself in this matter? I kept my counsel and walked away, not saying a word about Patel’s suggestion to Rao’s children when I met them to express my condolences.

(Chapter 4: Managing the Coalition)

“On 26 September 2007, shortly after he was appointed one of the party’s general secretaries, Rahul Gandhi led a delegation of all the party general secretaries to greet Dr Singh on his birthday. After the courtesies and tea and dhokla were done with, the delegation settled down to a discussion on policy issues. At the end of the meeting, Sonia’s political secretary, Ahmed Patel, handed over a statement about the meeting, requesting me to release it to the press……………….I told Patel that it was not the practice of the PMO to issue press statements on behalf of those who visited the PM, and that I would draft a statement of my own stating that a delegation of party general secretaries led by Rahul had come to greet the PM on his birthday. As for the political content of the statement, it was better, I suggested, that it came in a separate statement from the party office.”

(Chapter 8: Promises to Keep)

“One senior journalist called to tell me that Ahmed Patel had said to him, ‘How can Doctor Saheb issue any such ultimatum to the Left? He did not bring them into an alliance with us, so he cannot ask them to go.’”

(Chapter 11 : Ending Nuclear Apartheid)

“One senior political journalist who claimed he had spoken to Ahmed Patel told me that Rahul, in fact, looked forward to a tenure as the leader of the Opposition so as to burnish his own political credentials, differentiating himself, perhaps even distancing himself, from Dr Singh’s legacy. Few expected the Congress to return to power until almost the very end of the campaign. They all underestimated Dr Singh’s popularity and the lacklustre image of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, among his own partymen.”

(Chapter 12: Victory Denied)

Ahmed Patel’s body reached his native village Piraman through Vadodara from Gurgaon and was laid to rest at a Muslim cemetery in the presence of hundreds of locals and Congress leaders, yesterday.

Om Shanti Om.

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