NEW DELHI: 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 Gurugram 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," the Congress president said.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh condoled Patel's death and said it is an "irreparable loss" to the Congress.
"Ahmed Patel ji was one of the most trusted leader of the Congress Party and a great friend of mine. His passing away is an irreparable loss to the Congress Party. My heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved family," he said.
In a statement, the party said Congress 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.
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 & inspiration to us all. His wise words will be dearly missed," he said.
Another 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 shocked and saddened to learn about Patel's demise.
"He was a dedicated worker, strong anchor of our party & steered it through difficult times. My heartfelt condolences to his family, friends & workers. We will miss you," he said in a tweet.
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?" the former Union minister 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.
Another senior 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," the former Union minister 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 Patel's 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.
Former Union ministers and senior Congress leaders Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma Shashi Tharoor and Ashwani Kumar also condoled Patel's demise.
Patel was an eight-time parliamentarian -- five times in the Rajya Sabha, three times in the Lok Sabha.
His last Rajya Sabha election was contested keenly.
He was currently the Congress treasurer, a post that he occupied thrice.
Leaders across party line pay condolences to Patel
BJP president J P Nadda expressing his anguish and many of his colleagues lauding Patel's contribution to the public life.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said Patel contributed a lot to the public life and the Congress, describing the news of the leader's death as extremely painful.
In a tweet, Nadda said, "Deeply anguished to hear about the demise of veteran Congress leader Shri Ahmed Patel Ji. I pray for strength to the family members and his supporters at this hour of grief. Om Shanti."
Senior BJP leader and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh noted that Patel was a seasoned leader who made remarkable contribution to his party and public life.
"Ahmed Bhai had friends across party lines. My thoughts are with his family and well-wishers in this sad hour," he said.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar also expressed his sadness at Patel's demise.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee extended her condolences to Patel's family members and followers.
"Saddened and shocked at the passing away of Ahmed Patel. He was a quiet, affable person. My condolences to his family, admirers and his colleagues," Banerjee tweeted.
"Deeply grieved at the untimely passing away of Sh Ahmed Patel, veteran political leader and a Congressman all his life. With his warm and pleasing manners he could reach out across the entire political spectrum. A big loss to Indian politics & Constitutional values," CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted.
CPI general secretary D Raja said he has lost a friend.
"I am deeply saddened to have lost a friend. He was a Congressman who regularly worked with secular democratic forces. He would always contact and discuss issues with us. As a political activist he stood for positive, progressive values. His absence will make a difference in the coming days," Raja said.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister and Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel said Patel was a "valiant leader and gem of the party".
"Ahmed Bhai Patel was determined towards Congresss ideology, a valiant leader and gem of the party. His death has shocked all of us. His death is an irreparable loss to the nation, Baghel said in a statement.
The chief minister conveyed his condolences to the bereaved family and prayed that the departed soul may rest in peace, the release said.
Former state chief minister and BJP's national vice president Raman Singh in a tweet said he was deeply saddened by the untimely demise of Patel.
"Deepest condolences to his family and well-wishers. May his soul rest in peace. Om Shanti, Singh tweeted.
National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday condoled the demise of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel.
Mufti said Patel was a humble, kind and gracious person.
"Saddened to hear about Ahmad Bhai's demise. He was humble, kind & a gracious person. May Allah Subhana Taa'la grant him jannat. Condolences to his son Faisal & the family (sic)," she said in a tweet.
The Abdullahs also condoled Patel's death.
"My father & I are deeply saddened to hear about the demise of Ahmed Patel Sb. Our relationship with Ahmed bhai is both political & personal and has been a long one. May Allah grant him place in Jannat & may the family find strength at this difficult time," Omar Abdullah wrote on Twitter.
He prayed for strength and patience to the family to bear the loss.
"Please accept our heartfelt condolences @mfaisalpatel and to the family, especially Esra who lost her beloved grandfather. May Allah grant all of you strength & sabar at this difficult time (sic)," the NC vice-president said.
Gujarat Congress working President Hardik Patel said the senior party leader's death is a "huge loss" for their party.
"Demise of Ahmed Bhai has left us shocked. He served the Congress party for three decades. While working for the welfare of people, he worked in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. His departure is obviously a huge loss for the Congress party," Hardik Patel told ANI.
"While I was in jail during my public agitation days, he took care of the legal concern of my family," he added.
Remembering the late leader, Hardik said that Ahmed Patel used to say to him that only "those people succeed in life who are sincere and patient."
Earlier today, Hardik had tweeted that the veteran Congress leader strengthened him "socially, stately and ideologically".
"Mr. Ahmed Bhai Patel, the senior leader of the Congress Party and the guide of our youth has passed away. I pray to God for the peace of the departed soul. Ahmed Bhai has done the work of strengthening me socially, stately and ideologically. Ahmed Bhai was sympathetic to the people of Gujarat," he tweeted.
"Whenever I used to visit Delhi Ahmad bhai, he would not let me go without having food. Ahmad Bhai was a really nice person. The sudden loss of this person who keeps promise and friendship is sad for all of us. God bless his family," he added.
(With ANI Inputs)