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Ahmed Patel: From low-profile politician to centre of attention

Ahmed Patel has long been known as the 'backroom boy' of the Congress.

August 09, 2017 / 07:46 AM IST

After a feverish build-up and nail-biting day of voting on Tuesday followed by late-night drama, Congress' Ahmed Patel hung on to his Rajya Sabha seat in Gujarat to earn a fifth term.

The narrow win comes as major relief for one of the Congress' steadfast loyalists.

Patel has long been known as the "backroom boy" of the Congress, but over the past month, he has been at the centre of attention in political circles.

Rajya Sabha elections generally tend to be a formality, but a series of last-minute defections from the party ahead of the polls put Patel's prestige in jeopardy.

Apart from being a member of the Congress' old guard, Patel is a key figure in Gujarat as he is one of the only two Muslims to have been elected from the Lok Sabha in Gujarat. The other Muslim MP was Ahmed’s late Congress colleague, Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The seasoned politician has remained a constant and dedicated member of Congress and even threatened to retire from public life when Narendra Modi called him a "friend" in one of his speeches.

When the anti-Congress wave swept India in the 1977 general elections, Patel, then 26, was elected to Lok Sabha. He won the next two Lok Sabha elections from Bharuch.

Low-profile since his early days, ‘Ahmedbhai’ never aspired for ministerial positions. During the early 80s, became close to Rajiv Gandhi who was being groomed for a larger role in national politics.

When Rajiv Gandhi came to power after the assassination of then Prime Minister and his mother Indira Gandhi, Patel was quickly promoted and made joint secretary of Congress. Soon afterwards, he became the parliamentary secretary of the prime minister and later the General Secretary of Congress.

After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991, Patel retained his heft. He was elected as a member of the Rajya Sabha for the first time in 1993 and served as the treasurer of All India Congress Committee from 1996 to 2000.

Patel also became the secretary of the Congress think-tank Jawahar Bhavan Trust, a brainchild of Rajiv Gandhi that was backed by Sonia Gandhi. This role brought him closer to Sonia Gandhi, who took over the party in the late 90s and eventually appointed Patel as her Political Secretary.

Patel has also served in several positions within committees of many ministries such as Petroleum and Chemicals, Aviation, Human Resource Development ministry during the Congress’s tenure at the Centre.

A defeat in Gujarat could have spelt more trouble for the Congress and put Patel's future in jeopardy, but his narrow win gives the grand old party a much-needed boost.

first published: Aug 9, 2017 07:46 am