New Delhi: A birthday gift that comes with responsibilities attached. On his 69th birthday, Ahmed Patel was appointed the treasurer of the Congress Party.
The importance of the rejig is not lost on political observers, both within and outside the Congress.
Ahmed Patel makes his comeback to the treasurer post after a gap of 18 years.
The once powerful political secretary to Sonia Gandhi will hold the key to funds in the election year. It’s the treasured responsibility to look after the coffers of the party and keep track of donations and income to the party.
Many in the Sonia Congress, especially the old guard, who were worried that with Rahul at the helm they would not find a place, are now breathing a little easy. Out of compulsion or otherwise, Rahul has not been able to completely break away from the past.
Ahmed Patel or AP or Ahmed Bhai as he is called has been a low profile, reticent political secretary to Sonia for years. He has been her trusted trouble shooter.
Conventionally, only those who the family trusts completely are given this responsibility. Ahmed Patel’s appointment as treasurer reaffirms Rahuls’s faith in him.
The timing of Patel’s appointment is also significant. Congress is bracing itself for the big battle for 2019. And paucity of funds is one the challenges it faces. It’s not in power in any big state except Punjab and Karnataka, where it is in alliance with the JD(S).
Congress has been unable to invite funding from corporates. Donations have dried up. In fact one of the reasons behind Rahul travelling abroad for events is to crowd source funds for the party.
Party has also asked all its departments and affiliates to mobilise funds. Ahmed Patel’s appointment is an answer to this challenge. He has good equations across party lines. The soft spoken leader at the same time has displayed necessary firmness in political and resource management.
As a top congress source says, “Ahmed bhai’s ability to win over adversity is something we cannot do without.”
Political analyst Rasheed Kidwai says, “It just shows sun never sets on the veteran Congressman.”
For Ahmed Patel, personally, it means he’s not out. After he resigned as political secretary to Sonia when Rahul took over as president many thought his innings was over. But many factors like Sonia’s trust and respect for him, his aggressive fight for his Rajya Sabha seat impressed the younger Gandhi.
But there is also a flip side to this appointment. It also means Rahul has broken from his mother’s choice of a political secretary. It perhaps indicates Ahmed Patel won’t play a very central role in Rahul’s decision making. But his importance and proximity to the Gandhis remains undiminished.