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Ahmed Patel 2.0 is queering the electoral pitch for his fellow Gujaratis, Modi and Shah

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While detractors were counting on him to fade away with Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel has emerged as a leader on the electoral battlefield for the Congress.

Jaipur: BJP president Amit Shah has to contend with a new avatar of Sonia Gandhi’s Man Friday — Ahmed Patel 2.0, if you like — as the two Gujaratis prepare for a battle royal in 2019.

The ongoing assembly elections are witnessing the emergence of a new Patel, who has left his strategic command and control centre in New Delhi to join the troops on the battleground.

Thursday, he addressed an election rally in Jaipur’s Vidyadhar Nagar, the first outside Gujarat since he became Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary in 2001. In the ensuing 16 years till she remained party president, he was firefighting for her and the Congress, but the national capital remained his operational headquarters.

So when he addressed a public meeting in Vidyadhar Nagar, peppering his speech with Urdu couplets to make scathing attacks on the BJP governments in New Delhi and Jaipur, his party colleagues and political adversaries sat up in amazement.

More ‘firsts’

Friday, he was at the Pink City Press Club to address the media, again a first. He never went to a press club in the past, nor did he ever address a presser in any elections outside Gujarat, his home state.

The next day, Patel was in Ajmer to interact with party workers and on his way back went to the Congress candidate’s election office in Bagru to address the rank and file. In-between these engagements, Patel, 69, met and tried to mollify dissident leaders in Jaipur. Through the day, he would keep a constant touch with party candidates across the state.

Patel’s new avatar hasn’t just surfaced in Rajasthan. It has been gradual but unmistakable.
He, along with senior Karnataka leader and minister D.K. Shivakumar, was in Hyderabad last week to meet rebel party candidates, and got most of them to withdraw their candidature.

Patel also launched a critical operation to keep the flock together in Mizoram. With a team of 15 people sent to Aizawl, Patel successfully countered the BJP’s point-man in the northeast, Himanta Biswa Sarma, and his ‘depredations’ against Congress MLAs.


Also read: Three reasons why it will be tough for even Ahmed Patel to raise money for Congress


What’s the story behind Ahmed Patel 2.0?

“It’s a do-or-die situation for the party. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have to be stopped now, else it will be too late for us. Extraordinary situations demand extraordinary responses,” a close aide of Patel explained to ThePrint.

Just when his detractors were counting on him to fade away with Sonia Gandhi taking a back seat, Patel gave a display of why she trusted him with her political future. In a nail-biting contest that Shah made a battle of prestige, Patel outmanoeuvred the BJP president to secure his Rajya Sabha seat from Gujarat last year. That turned out to be a watershed as the Congress used the newfound confidence to put up a valiant fight in the Gujarat assembly elections last December.

Many in the party believe that Gujarat Rajya Sabha contest was the genesis of Patel 2.0, as soon-to-be appointed Congress president Rahul Gandhi saw why his mother trusted him for so long.

In August, Rahul appointed him AICC treasurer, entrusting him with the crucial task of collecting funds for the party — a big ask at a time when prospective donors had to be mindful of the dangling sticks. Patel, say party leaders, has brought a change in the Congress’ fortune, though only marginally. Party candidates in the current assembly elections may vouch for it, even though they remain far ‘poorer’ than their BJP counterparts.

Congress leaders say — with tongue firmly in cheek — that the results of the current round of assembly elections are crucial for the AICC treasurer ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. But in all seriousness, the arrival of Ahmed Patel 2.0 could queer the pitch for his fellow Gujaratis, Modi and Shah, who were acknowledged as the undisputed kings of the electoral arena not very long ago.


Also read: With Ahmed Patel as treasurer, Congress coffers begin to swell ahead of 2019


 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Smt Sonia Gandhi put her faith in the right man, a better judge of character and calibre than her son has been, in the manner of selecting aides. If a “ mere housewife “ could exercise an iron grip over her party, both in adversity and then in a decade in power, a lot of the credit should go to Shri Ahmed Patel.

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