New Delhi: By saving the Congress government in Rajasthan and ensuring a seemingly seamless return of rebel leader Sachin Pilot and his followers to the party fold, veteran Congress leader Ahmed Patel has once again proved why his troubleshooting skills are indispensable for the party leadership.
All eyes are on Patel, whenever there is trouble brewing for the Congress. Not for nothing is the man credited with being instrumental in the smooth running of two successive UPA governments in alliance with a number of parties between 2004 and 2014.
He is still a key negotiator for the Congress, which he proved by thwarting BJP’s attempts at toppling the Gehlot government in Rajasthan, after the party’s bad experience in Madhya Pradesh.
The Congress did not want to lose the second state within six months of the Madhya Pradesh fiasco and hence fell back on the negotiating skills of its veteran leader.
In case of Sachin Pilot, it was the Congress Treasurer who managed the return of four MLAs on Day One of the revolt by the then Rajasthan Deputy CM, ensuring fissures in the Pilot camp.
Patel, a five-term Rajya Sabha member, led the party fight against the rebels and backed Ashok Gehlot to save the state government. The fight was fought on several fronts — legal team of Congress fighting it out in the courts, Gehlot holding on to his flock of MLAs, and simultaneous attempts to win over some BJP MLAs.
Patel’s style of functioning has helped build bridges between warring factions. He can take along different voices in the party and yet remain behind the curtains while conducting big political operations. He is also not loathe to give all credit to the First Family of the Congress. No surprises then that so far as optics are concerned, it was Rahul Gandhi who was in the forefront of the Pilot comeback, said a party leader.
Party sources say there were ‘Trojan horses’ in the Pilot camp who were in regular touch with the Congress leadership. Once the Pilot camp opened negotiations, the first move by the Congress was to scrap sedition charges against them by the Rajasthan Police SOG to send out feelers.
The sources said the reluctance of rebel Congress MLAs to join ranks with the BJP was anticipated by the Congress over a period of time and it seized the initiative.
Once the nod came from Rahul Gandhi, the return of Pilot and his band of followers into the party fold was worked out in typical Congress style wherein a committee was formed to listen to their grievances. Patel put together the panel led by Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi and it met the MLAs and Pilot on Monday night.
It may seem a happy ending for the Congress at the moment, but party leaders say that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was initially reluctant about the ‘ghar wapsi’ of the rebel leader though he wanted the rebel MLAs back.
He was told that the party leadership wanted Sachin Pilot back and thus not to interfere in the reconciliation process, throwing light on the tough negotiating skills of Ahmed Patel.
The party had dispatched Avinash Pandey, Randeep Singh Surjewala and Ajay Maken to show the seriousness of the party that it doesn’t want to take risks like in Madhya Pradesh, where Jyotiraditya Scindia-led coup cost it the state government.
The sources said a task has now been cut out for the Congress managers to keep a united face after the Rajasthan political drama that played out before the nation on various platforms.