A staunch Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist, Ahmed Patel served as political secretary to Sonia Gandhi for years.

Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, one of Sonia Gandhi’s closest political advisers and a top party trouble-shooter, has died at 71. He had been in hospital since his health worsened after a Covid infection.Sonia Gandhi, expressing grief, said she had lost “an irreplaceable comrade, a faithful colleague and a friend”.

The veteran’s death is a shock for the Gandhi family at a time it is facing a rebellion in the party after successive electoral losses.

A staunch Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist, Ahmed Patel served as political secretary to Sonia Gandhi for years and was among the most powerful leaders in the Congress.

He never joined the government, preferring to keep a low profile.

In the Congress, “AP” – as he was known — was the eyes and ears of the leadership.

When Sonia Gandhi took charge of the Congress in 1997, Ahmed Patel helped her navigate tough political waters.

And guided her through party crises, strategic decisions and alliances.

Ahmed Patel represented Gujarat eight times in parliament thrice.

As a Lok Sabha member and five times from the Rajya Sabha. His election to the Rajya Sabha for the fifth time in 2017 came after a bitter contest.

He challenged by a former party colleague who had switched to the BJP before the polls.

The son of a social worker, Mr Patel born in Gujarat’s Bharuch, which he later represented in the Lok Sabha.

He joined the Youth Congress and went on to become its state president.

Mr Patel started his political career by contesting local body elections in Gujarat in 1976.

He just 28 when he handpicked by Indira Gandhi to contest from Bharuch in 1977.

Won in 1980 and 1984 as well, but lost in 1990 as the BJP started gaining prominence.

He served as parliamentary secretary to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

And went on to become political secretary to his wife Sonia Gandhi.