File photo: Ahmed Patel, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) from the state of Gujarat. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel was made treasurer of the Congress Party on Tuesday. (It was also his birthday.) Patel has earlier worked closely with Sonia Gandhi; he was her political secretary for over 15 years.
Patel's appointment as treasurer had been on the cards for a number of months.
All of the party's old leaders have not been discarded. Gulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ashok Gehlot, and others are being accommodated in important positions.
But some old leaders are being replaced. Dr Karan Singh has been replaced by senior Congress leader Anand Sharma who will now will head the party's Foreign Affairs department.
Mr Patel himself replaces the ageing Moti Lal Vora who is in his 80s. Mr Vora will now function as General Secretary in charge of administration.
Budding leaders meanwhile are being put in charge of states. The list is long and includes leaders like RPN Singh, Jitendra Singh, Rajiv Satav and others.
So this is not a battle royale between the old and the new guard.
This is not the first time Ahmed Patel has been Congress treasurer. He was first made treasurer 20 years ago in 1998.
He then resigned briefly before making a comeback to Sonia Gandhi's inner circle.
He got the same portfolio again and had by then learnt his lesson well — Sonia Gandhi does not like people resigning from their positions making public displays of internal matters.
Patel never looked back after that.
He went on to be appointed as the political adviser to Sonia Gandhi. For some time he shared the responsibility with Ambika Soni but she was subsequently shifted to organisation.
From 2004 till 2014, Patel reigned supreme.
He also played a crucial role in saving the government in 2008 when the Left moved the trust vote. He was the principal outreach guy, Sonia's troubleshooter.
Many accused him of cornering power and pushing his people into crucial positions. The joke was that there is an Ahmed Patel Congress within Sonia Gandhi's Congress.
Burt where senior leaders like Arjun Singh, Natwar Singh, Margaret Alva, and Ambika Soni fell by the wayside, Ahmad Patel survived all of them.
He was the only man through whom one could get to Sonia Gandhi. Almost everybody feared his proximity to the Congress first family.
A very senior leader once told this reporter that she had gone to meet Sonia Gandhi to inform her of her upcoming foreign visit. The senior leader had been going on vacation.
By the time she got out of 10 Janpath, she said she got a call from Patel who asked her where in Europe she was going?
The message was very clear to the Congress party — Sonia Gandhi trusted Ahmed Patel.
Treasurer of the Congress Party is no small position. Only those who hold the trust of the family are appointed to the post.
Rahul has also dismantled the old structure of the Congress party.
He has for one done away with the position of political secretary. This is because he does not want one person to function as the sole gateway to him.
Second, Rahul has also done away with the practice of General Secretary in charge of multiple states. The only exception to the rule is the Northeast where Rahul Gandhi has let go of CP Joshi and made Luizinho Falerio in charge of the region
Ahmed Patel continues to be the most low-profile politician in the Congress Party. He is not the knight in the shining armour of Rahul Gandhi. He does not enjoy the same equation with Rahul Gandhi as he did with Sonia Gandhi. It is also a new reality for Ahmad Patel where he is still a player but not the principal player as he was some years back. But he is still required by the party.
Always available but intensely discreet, it is difficult to find a place and person in the Congress who has not been worked on by him. A large number of leaders working in leadership positions within Congress have been personally handpicked by Patel.
Patel hates being written about. And he has refrained from talking about his working relationship with Sonia Gandhi.
Considered a wazir of the dark art of politics, Ahmed Patel represents the old sensibility of the Congress. His contacts are immense both within the non-Congress political structure as well as the business community.
The Congress is currently short of funds and will require all of Mr Patel's resources so that a sufficient war chest can be raised for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. And his personal contacts, built up over decades, will be required in case of a fractured Parliament.