Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, one of Sonia Gandhi’s closest political advisers and a top party trouble-shooter, has died at 71. He had been in hospital since his health worsened after a Covid infection.
A staunch Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist, Ahmed Patel served as political secretary to Sonia Gandhi for years and was among the most powerful leaders in the Congress but he never joined the government, preferring to keep a low profile.
He represented Gujarat eight times in parliament – thrice as a Lok Sabha member and five times from the Rajya Sabha.
His election to the Rajya Sabha for the fifth time in 2017 came after a bitter contest. He was challenged by a former party colleague who switched to the BJP before the polls, which made it the first Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat in decades to see a contest instead of candidates getting elected unopposed.
The son of a social worker, Mr Patel was born in Gujarat’s Bharuch, which he represented in the Lok Sabha. He joined the Youth Congress and went on to become its state president.
He was just 28 when he was handpicked by Indira Gandhi to contest from Bharuch in 1977. He won in 1980 and 1984 as well, but lost in 1990 as the BJP started gaining prominence.
A quiet operator, Mr Patel was said to be among the key movers in the Congress-led alliance that came to power in 2004.