Ahmed Patel: The key Congress man in Maharashtra, from UPA to MVA
Ahmed Patel, the Congress’s master strategist or ‘Chanakya’ who passed away on Wednesday, had played a key role in the formation of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government comprising three parties with different ideologies around this time last year.
After the Shiv Sena fell out with its long-standing ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), following the Assembly polls in October last year, the Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), who were in talks for formation of the government, approached the Congress for an alliance. The party’s national leadership was reluctant to join hands with the Sena, which was seen as the party advocating Hindutva and was known for its stand against outsiders or migrants.
The party’s south Indian leaders, including organisational secretary KC Venugopal, had reportedly warned the leadership about the fallout of such an alliance in other parts of the country, according to state Congress leaders. Then, Congress leaders from Maharashtra approached Patel to stress the need to form the government to keep the state unit together, after the poor performance in the past two Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
“A majority of the 42 MLAs elected were of the opinion that the party should be part of the coalition. Some of the younger MLAs had also warned of a split in the party if the Congress did not concede to their demand to be part of the government. The leadership then appointed Patel to take stock of the situation and look at the pros and cons,” said a state Congress leader.
Leaders and MLAs felt that being in power would help keep the BJP out of power and give an opportunity to regain lost ground in the state, where the party was born 135 years ago.
“Patel also convinced the central leadership that the Sena had shed its aggressive stand over north Indians and minorities. He had meetings with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray separately before forming the government to decide the terms. He was keen on a common minimum programme which could underline the secular face of the alliance. He also clarified the Congress would not agree to secondary treatment in terms of sharing of power, although it was a junior partner in terms of number of MLAs,” said the leader, adding that Patel was common link between Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Pawar and Thackeray in the entire process.
Revenue minister and former chief minister Ashok Chavan said, “Ahmedbhai presented the political position in the state before the party leadership. He spoke to the MLAs and conveyed it to the leadership impartially. It helped us in forming the government in Maharashtra.” “Ahmedbhai also had a dialogue with party MLAs who were lodged in Rajasthan to avoid any attempt of poaching,” said a senior Congress leader requesting anonymity.
Thackeray, in his condolence message, said: “The party has lost its Chanakya, who would stand by them in every moment of challenge. He was actively involved in social work, besides his political engagements. His guidance and experience helped us a lot while forming the three-party alliance that formed the government in Maharashtra last year. Not only the Congress, but even the MVA has lost its guide.”
Pawar tweeted, “Deeply saddened to know about the demise of veteran Congress leader Shri Ahmed Patel. His contribution to @INCINdia will always be remembered. My sincere condolences to members of his family.”
Patel shared cordial relations with Pawar. He was Congress’s pointsperson to communicate with the NCP leadership, especially during the UPA government at the Centre. He had played a key role in forming the Congress-NCP alliance that ruled Maharashtra from 1999 to 2014. “The two parties came together to form a government in Maharashtra in 1999 in just a few months after Pawar quit the Congress to form his own outfit. The alliance after the fallout was a strategic move in which Patel played a major role,” another party leader said.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray said, “Over the years, Patel forged relationships even beyond the political sphere. He valued each of them and stood by his friends in good and bad times. I have fond memories of Patel and will always cherish those.”
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- The state unions are also opposing the introduction of the National Education Policy (NEP), saying it violates the Constitutional mandates of reservation and free and compulsory education.