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Sunday, Dec 08, 2019

18 years on, Congress reappoints Ahmed Patel as treasurer

Congress president Rahul Gandhi had reconstituted the working committee in July inducting a mix of experienced politicians and youthful faces in the party’s highest decision-making body.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2018 22:50 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Ahmed Patel, the former political secretary of Sonia Gandhi, replaces Motilal Vora as the treasurer of the Congress.
Ahmed Patel, the former political secretary of Sonia Gandhi, replaces Motilal Vora as the treasurer of the Congress.(PTI file photo)

In major organisational changes ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday appointed senior leader Ahmed Patel as the party treasurer, a post he held almost 18 years ago.

Patel will replace Motilal Vora, 89, who has been appointed as the party’s general secretary in charge of administration, a new post in the organisation.

The appointment of 69-year-old Patel, who was political secretary to former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, comes at a time when the 132-year-old party is grappling with its worst financial crisis. Several Congress candidates had admitted to a “severe funds crunch” during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The crisis, blamed on corporate houses moving away from the Congress, reportedly continued through subsequent assembly elections in several states.

Patel won his fifth term from Gujarat last year after a nail-biting finish in the bitterly fought Rajya Sabha elections, which had become a prestige battle between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

A key strategist of the Congress, Patel played an important role during the 10 years of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government but always maintained a low profile.

Patel also served as the parliamentary secretary to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1985-86. Apart from being Gujarat Congress president from January 1986 to October 1988, he was party general secretary twice from September 1985 to January 1986 and then from May 1992 to October 1996.

A member of the powerful Congress Working Committee (CWC) since April 1992, Patel was treasurer from October 1996 to July 2000. In 2001, he was appointed as the political secretary to Sonia Gandhi, a post he held till December 2017.

Political observers say the party leadership may have zeroed in on Patel as he would be able to cope with the pressures of the post ahead of the general elections. “Probably, the party must have thought that he (Patel) will be able to mobilise the necessary resources and deploy the energy required to face the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” said Delhi-based political analyst Professor Balveer Arora.

Talk of Vora’s exit as the party treasurer was going on within the Congress for some time now. But Gandhi has maintained a balance between the young and the old, and will continue to use Vora’s experience and services as the general secretary in charge of administration.

A journalist by profession, Vora was Bombay correspondent of the Navbharat Times from 1968 to 1972. After joining the Congress, Vora rose through the ranks and went on to become chief minister of Madhya Pradesh though he remained at the helm only from January 1989 to November 1989.

Vora also served as Uttar Pradesh governor from 1993 to 1996. His appointment had come soon after the BJP government, headed by Kalyan Singh, was dismissed by the Centre following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

In other changes, Anand Sharma will be the new chairman of the organisation’s foreign affairs department in place of 87-year-old Karan Singh.

A former union minister, Sharma, 65, hails from Himachal Pardesh and is the party’s deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha.

Former Goa chief minister Luizinho Falerio will be the Congress general secretary in charge of the northeast. Former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar has been inducted into the CWC as a permanent invitee.