By Dr S Ganguly
“Position and power come and go, but relationships live forever.” This favourite phrase of Ahmed Patel often reverberates in my ears,more so, on the day when his untimely demise has left a huge void not only in Indian politics but in my personal life as well.
I did not even imagine that it would be my last meeting with Ahmedbhai, as I fondly called him, when I met him in November 2019, hale and hearty.
My first meeting with Ahmedbhai was when he brought his little boy, Faisal, about 12 years old, to The Doon School for admission. We did meet as teacher and parent but a strong bond of trust and friendship evolved over three decades. I will always remember our interactions fondly.
He had always been an astute parliamentarian, skilled strategist, crisis manager, an unbelievably down to Earth leader with the acumen of Chanakya, having deep understanding of the Indian political system… surprisingly never ambitious for himself. He was captain of secular alliances, a hardworking politician and a true statesman. His cordial nature won him friends across party lines.
In Lutyens Delhi, 23 Willingdon Crescent was considered a power centre, to which access was highly restricted. However, for friends like me, the doors were always open. He was always available and approachable. I remember chit chatting with Ahmed Bhai for hours. His children, Mumtaz and Faisal, are like family to me. My daughter even now remembers how the family looked after her for an entire day when I was away on duty. He had always extended help and assistance, given time and attention, whenever required. He was indeed a friend in need and stood by me through thick and thin.
Ahmedbhai spent years in public life, serving society selflessly. I would often interact with him on several social issues, particularly education and health. He was always a solution man with no frills.
He was very attached to his home town, Bharuch, which, coincidently houses two of our Aditya Birla Group schools at Dahej and Kharach. On my visit to Bharuch, I would make it a point to visit his state of the art school at Kharod, Kharod Public School. He would seek an honest feedback about the school and seek suggestions for improvement. The school provides quality education to thousands of villagers from the marginalised community. In order to ensure that the youth are skilled to create their own jobs, Ahmedbhai started a Vocational Training Institute at Kharod in district Bharuch. It was deeply touching when he personally held my hand and made me sit on the dais, along with other dignitaries during its inaugural function.
His contribution towards healthcare is no less. The multispecialty hospital, named Sardar Patel Multispecialty Hospital, in Ankleshwar provides quality healthcare services to the nearby community, rich and poor, alike. This selfless politician and a true nationalist will always be cherished for his social service and philanthropy.
Ahmedbhai wieldedenormous power but did so with great finesse and without an iota of arrogance. He was forever at hand to soothe ruffled feathers and massage egos to create an amicable political ground. He would always shun the limelight and prefer working from behind the scene. It was his cultivated reticence and deep sense of decency that enabled him and gave others confidence in him. Neither opulence nor ostentation worked for him.
The demise of this dedicated worker, strong political anchor, seasoned leader and a true nationalist has left a deep void which is difficult to fill.
May you rest in peace, Ahmed Bhai!
(Dr S Ganguli is Chief Education Officer, ABMCPL, Garhi Cantt, Dehradun.)