I knew Ahmed Patel since 1980 when he was the Gujarat Youth Congress Committee president. But we worked closely from 1993-94 onwards when both of us served as members of the Rajya Sabha.
He was a great organiser and will be remembered for looking into the smallest organisational and logistical issues, but at the same time not losing the big picture. Over the years, he organised thousands of programmes and would personally take over Congress national president’s events to ensure zero errors.
I will always remember him as a Congressman who knew how to say ‘No’. For politicians who are natural ‘people pleasers’, the hardest word is ‘No’, but not for Ahmed Patel. He had said ‘no’ to PCC presidents, CMs, ministers and union ministers. He would never offend anyone, but say it in a way that you would understand.
He was a man of tremendous compassion. I still remember that when one of our party workers, Narendra Bhudania, met with a freak accident in Gujarat and needed immediate medical attention, Ahmed Patel stepped in, got Bhudania airlifted and arranged for his admission at AIIMS. It was all done in a jiffy and within a few hours, the workers’ life was saved. He was forever a party worker’s man, and no Congress worker went away unhappy after meeting him.
He had his finger on the people’s pulse and had tremendous patience. He had no hang-ups over security and would meet ordinary Congress workers regularly, which was one of the secrets behind his long tenure at the top of the party.
When the elections were held in Gujarat after the 2002 Godhra riots, he made excellent arrangements and in those three months, he identified each block president. Knowing that they needed to move around a lot, he provided them with brand new Innovas, which ultimately produced good results on the ground.
(B K Hariprasad has served as general secretary/secretary to 17 states)
(As told to Bansy Kalappa)