President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of leaders across party lines on Wednesday condoled the death of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel and hailed his contribution to his party and public life.
Patel, 71, the quintessential backroom strategist for the Congress, died at a Gurugram hospital in the early hours of Wednesday due to multiple organ failure more than a month after he tested positive for COVID-19.
President Kovind said he was distressed to learn that Patel is no more.
"An astute Parliamentarian, Shri Patel combined the skills of a strategist and the charm of a mass leader. His amiability won him, friends, across party lines. My condolences to his family and friends," Kovind tweeted.
The vice president said he was deeply saddened. "...He was an able parliamentarian and always maintained cordial relations with leaders across the political spectrum," the Vice President Secretariat tweeted quoting Naidu.
Condoling the death, Prime Minister Modi said he was saddened by the demise of the leader whose role in strengthening the Congress will always be remembered.
"Known for his sharp mind, his role in strengthening the Congress Party would always be remembered. Spoke to his son Faisal and expressed condolences. May Ahmed Bhai's soul rest in peace," the prime minister said in a tweet.
Union ministers Amit Shah, Prakash Javadekar, Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani were among the others condoled the death of the Congress’ key strategist.
Several top Congress leaders expressed their grief, with Sonia Gandhi mourning the loss of an 'irreplaceable comrade' and Rahul Gandhi saying Patel 'lived and breathed Congress' and stood with the party through its most difficult times.
The Congress president said in her message that Patel, who served as her political advisor for years and was AICC treasurer, had dedicated his entire life to the Congress.
"I have lost an irreplaceable comrade, a faithful colleague and a friend. I mourn his passing and I feel deeply for his bereaved family to whom I offer my sincere feelings of empathy and support," Sonia Gandhi said.
"It is a sad day. Shri Ahmed Patel was a pillar of the Congress party. He lived and breathed Congress and stood with the party through its most difficult times. He was a tremendous asset," Rahul Gandhi said in his message.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra described him as not only a wise and experienced colleague to whom she constantly turned for advice and counsel but also as a friend "who stood by us all, steadfast, loyal, and dependable to the end".
The chief ministers of Congress-ruled states -- Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot, Punjab’s Amarinder Singh, Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel and Puducherry’s V Narayanasamy – and a host of other Congress leaders paid rich tributes to the leader who always maintained a low profile.
The passing away of Patel, known for maintaining friendly relations with all parties, was also condoled by leaders, ministers and chief ministers from across the political spectrum, including from the BJP, the NCP, the SP and the BSP.
"The news about the death of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel is very sad. Ahmed Patel made a significant contribution to the Congress party and public life," Shah said in a tweet in Hindi.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said he was a seasoned leader, who made a remarkable contribution to his party and to public life. “Ahmed Bhai had friends across party lines. My thoughts are with his family and well-wishers in this sad hour," Singh tweeted.
Expressing his profound grief, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath prayed for peace for the departed soul and extended his condolences to the bereaved family, a government spokesperson said.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said she was saddened and shocked. "He was a quiet, affable person. My condolences to his family, admirers and his colleagues," she said.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren also expressed his grief.
Reacting to Patel's demise, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted, "Deeply grieved at the untimely passing away of Sh Ahmed Patel, veteran political leader and a Congressman all his life. With his warm and pleasing manners, he could reach out across the entire political spectrum."
"A big loss to Indian politics and Constitutional values," he said.
DMK leader M K Stalin termed Patel the "lynchpin" of the Congress. "On behalf of the DMK, I extend my condolences to his family as well as the Congress cadres who are mourning his loss," Stalin tweeted.
Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, too, expressed his sadness and offered his condolences on Patel''s demise.
"His deep impact on Indian politics will always be seen positively and be remembered," BSP leader Mayawati said in a tweet in Hindi.
A deeply saddened Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said his contribution to the party will always be remembered.
Patel began his political career by contesting local body polls in Gujarat''s Bharuch district in 1976. He became a Lok Sabha MP in March 1977 and was a member of the sixth, seventh and eighth Lok Sabha till 1989. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha for the first time in August 1993.
Patel was a close confidant of Rajiv Gandhi and the parliamentary secretary to the prime minister from 1985 to 1986.
He later took charge of the Congress's organisational structure both in Gujarat and at the party high-command. Though Patel never became a minister, he always worked as a background man in the Congress and was at the centre stage of the party's decision-making till his death.
Patel, who leaves behind his wife, son and daughter, is the second senior Congress leader to have died due to COVID-related complications in two days. On Monday, former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi passed away in Guwahati.