NEW DELHI: The Congress impressive performance in Haryana Assembly polls is being seen as signs of its rejuvenation, started since old guards like Ahmed Patel regained control with Sonia Gandhi taking over the party’s affairs in August.
Patel is being credited for making former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda virtually the face of the party, which clearly helped it in the Assembly polls as it more than doubled its tally from 15 seats last time to 31 this time.
In Maharashtra too, Ashok Chavan was replaced with Balasaheb Thorat and Milind Deora was replaced with Eknath Gaekwad, besides which a smooth alliance with the NCP was ensured. As a result, the alliance showed an improved performance.
“The Congress could not get power in these two states but the game has begun,” said an insider of the party.
A secretive and a shrewd politician, Patel is Sonia Gandhi”s confidante who had been sidelined under the Presidentship of Rahul Gandhi since 2017 as younger leaders had greater say.
But with Sonia Gandhi being made the Interim President in August, Patel has bounced back and is planning strategies for the party as part of efforts to bring it on the path of recovery.
One of those strategies is to organise a massive agitation against the Modi government across the country which will culminate in Delhi. Patel will be the key figure in this task and has to bring “like-minded” parties together, said a source.
However, revival of the Congress will not be an easy task as the party has never been as weak as it is now. But leaders in the party have confidence that Patel would be able to deliver.
They cite the background of Patel, who hails from Gujarat, and his mentoring by Madhav Singh Solanki followed by his rise to the inner circle of Rajiv Gandhi, after which he never looked back, except for a few hiccups.
The party leaders, who have been assigned many tasks by Patel, say he has got “invisible people” to deliver work.
While hailing his political acumen, they recall the developments of 2007, when he had the responsibility of launching Rahul Gandhi into politics.
In this connection, a road show in Amroha in Uttar Pradesh had a huge participation and when enquired about the management, an MP had said “Ahmed bhai kahte hain to karna padta hai (when Ahmed Patel says something, it has to be done)”.
But when Rahul Gandhi became party president in 2017, Patel was sidelined. But not for long as the new chief also knew his capabilities and appointed him as party treasurer, which was a challenging task.
During the UPA government from 2004 to 2014, Patel, popularly known as “AP”, was the most powerful person after Sonia Gandhi. His Mother Teresa Crescent road residence was the most sought address in power corridors and even Cabinet Ministers and Chief Ministers had to wait for their turn to meet him.
Such was his political management that during the 2008 Vote of Confidence of the Manmohan Singh government in Parliament after the Left parties withdrew support, he ensured victory.
Although the trust vote was mired in a major controversy because three BJP MPs accused Patel of bribing them to vote for the UPA, he came clean in a probe.
Patel also proved his mettle when he defeated BJP candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls over a year back despite BJP President Amit Shah managing BJP”s affairs.