'Crisis manager, lived and breathed Congress': Party mourns Patel's demise

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New Delhi, Nov 25 (PTI) Congress leaders condoled the demise of senior party leader Ahmed Patel on Wednesday, with Sonia Gandhi mourning the loss of an 'irreplaceable comrade' and Rahul Gandhi saying he 'lived and breathed Congress' and stood with the party through its most difficult times.

Patel, who served as the party's backroom strategist for years, passed away at a Gurgaon hospital in the early hours of Wednesday. He was suffering from complications related to COVID-19.

In her condolence message for Patel, who served as her political secretary for years and was the AICC treasurer, party chief Sonia Gandhi said, 'In Shri Ahmed Patel, I have lost a colleague, whose entire life was dedicated to the Congress party.' His faithfulness and dedication, commitment to his duty, always being there to help and generosity were rare qualities that distinguished him from others, she added.

'I have lost an irreplaceable comrade, a faithful colleague and a friend. I mourn his passing and I feel deeply for his bereaved family to whom I offer my sincere feelings of empathy and support,' she said.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said Patel's death is an 'irreparable loss' to the Congress.

'Ahmed Patel ji was one of the most trusted leader of the Congress and a great friend of mine. His passing away is an irreparable loss to the party. My heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved family,' he said.

In a statement, the party said workers across the country are deeply pained and shocked by Patel's demise and have joined together to express heartfelt condolences.

'Ahmed Patel's affable nature, mild manners, dedication to Congress ideology and principles and indelible faith in the leadership in face of every adversity endeared him to all. His capacity to reach across and make friends made him stand apart,' the statement issued by Congress general secretary, organisation, K C Venugopal said.

'We deeply mourn his loss and pray to the almighty to give strength to the family, his loved ones and his supporters to bear the loss. As a mark of respect to Ahmed Patelji, the Congress party flag will fly at half mast for the next three days,' it added.

Rahul Gandhi said, 'Patel was a pillar of the Congress party'.

He lived and breathed Congress and stood with the party through its most difficult times. He was a tremendous asset, the former party chief wrote on Twitter.

'We will miss him. My love and condolences to Faisal, Mumtaz & the family,' he said.

Rahul Gandhi also visited Patel's home here and expressed condolences to his family.

In a tweet, Venugopal said Patel's untimely demise is an irreparable loss to the Congress.

'Dedicated & humble, he has been a source of strength, guidance and inspiration to us all. His wise words will be dearly missed,' he said.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra condoled Patel's demise, saying he was not only a wise and experienced colleague to whom she constantly turned for advice and counsel, but also a friend 'who stood by us all, steadfast, loyal, and dependable to the end'.

Expressing condolences to Patel's daughter Mumtaz and son Faisal, she said, 'Your father's service and commitment to our party was immeasurable. We will all miss him immensely. May his courage pass on to you and give you strength to face this tragedy.' Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said he was deeply saddened and shocked to learn about the untimely death of his party colleague.

'It is a great loss for Congress party and all Congress workers like me. His contribution to the party will always be remembered,' he said.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said, 'He was a dedicated worker, strong anchor of our party and steered it through difficult times.' Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram also expressed shock and sadness at Patel's death.

'He was a friend in the truest sense, loyal to the party and his colleagues, always willing to help and always there when one needed him. Whence do we find another like him?' he said.

'He was secular to his core and, despite the majoritarian assault on his community, he refused to yield and fought bravely till the end to uphold the fundamental principles of our Constitution,' he said in a series of tweets.

For two decades, Patel was one of the staunchest pillars of the Congress and a trusted counsellor, Chidambaram said.

Party leader Jairam Ramesh described Patel's demise as a huge loss for Indian public life and a 'horrendous blow' to the Congress.

'A quintessential organization man, he held many pivotal positions in the Congress over the past four decades. He had an unflappable temperament, and was a very effective crisis manager and trouble-shooter,' he said.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and his Puducherry counterpart V Narayanasamy also condoled Patel's death. Former Union minister Anand Sharma, Congress general secretaries Randeep Surjewala and Mukul Wasnik expressed sadness at his demise.

'The one who always performed his duty, considered the party as family, who always cut across political divides, left a mark on hearts, cannot believe (he is no more). Alvida Ahmedji,' Surjewala, who is also the Congress's chief spokesperson, said in a tweet in Hindi.

Congress leader Sachin Pilot said Patel has left a void which cannot be filled, and added that he was a dedicated congressman, a passionate nationalist and friend and mentor to many.

Former Union ministers Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma Shashi Tharoor and Ashwani Kumar also condoled Patel's demise. PTI ASK SKC AAR AAR