NEW DELHI: Congress leaders condoled the demise of senior party leader Ahmed Patel on Wednesday, with Sonia Gandhi mourning the loss of an "irreplaceable comrade" and Rahul Gandhi saying he "lived and breathed Congress" and stood with the party through its most difficult times.
Patel, who served as the party's backroom strategist for years, passed away at a Gurugram hospital in the early hours of Wednesday.
He was suffering from complications related to COVID-19.
In her condolence message for Patel, who served as her political secretary for years and was the AICC treasurer, party chief Sonia Gandhi said, "In Shri Ahmed Patel, I have lost a colleague, whose entire life was dedicated to the Congress Party."
His faithfulness and dedication, commitment to his duty, always being there to help and generosity were rare qualities that distinguished him from others, she added.
"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," the Congress president 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," former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet.
"We will miss him. My love and condolences to Faisal, Mumtaz & the family," he added.
Congress general secretary, organisation K C Venugopal said, "We are at loss for words. Shri Ahmed Patelji's untimely demise is an irreparable loss to the Congress party. Dedicated & humble, he has been a source of strength, guidance & inspiration to us all. His wise words will be dearly missed."
Another Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra condoled Patel's demise, saying he was not only a wise and experienced colleague to whom she constantly turned for advice and counsel, but also a friend "who stood by us all, steadfast, loyal, and dependable to the end".
Expressing condolences to Patel's daughter Mumtaz and son Faisal, she said, "Your father's service and commitment to our party was immeasurable. We will all miss him immensely. May his courage pass on to you and give you strength to face this tragedy."
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said he was deeply saddened and shocked to learn about the untimely death of his party colleague.
"It is a great loss for Congress Party and all Congress workers like me. His contribution to the party will always be remembered," he said.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said he was shocked and saddened to learn about Patel's demise.
"He was a dedicated worker, strong anchor of our party & steered it through difficult times. My heartfelt condolences to his family, friends & workers. We will miss you," he said in a tweet.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram also expressed shock and sadness at Patel's death.
"He was a friend in the truest sense, loyal to the party and his colleagues, always willing to help and always there when one needed him. Whence do we find another like him?" the former Union minister said.
"He was secular to his core and, despite the majoritarian assault on his community, he refused to yield and fought bravely till the end to uphold the fundamental principles of our Constitution," he said in a series of tweets.
For two decades, Patel was one of the staunchest pillars of the Congress and a trusted counsellor, Chidambaram said.
Another senior party leader Jairam Ramesh described Patel's demise as a huge loss for Indian public life and a "horrendous blow" to the Congress.
"A quintessential organization man, he held many pivotal positions in the Congress over the past four decades.
He had an unflappable temperament, and was a very effective crisis manager and trouble-shooter," the former Union minister said.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and his Puducherry counterpart V Narayanasamy also condoled Patel's death.
Former Union minister Anand Sharma, Congress general secretaries Randeep Surjewala and Mukul Wasnik expressed sadness at Patel's demise.
"The one who always performed his duty, considered the party as family, who always cut across political divides, left a mark on hearts, cannot believe (he is no more). Alvida Ahmedji," Surjewala said in a tweet in Hindi.
Senior leader Kapil Sibal tweeted: "I never thought you'll go so soon. Will feel the loss for long. Congress has lost its Northern Star who guided it for long, dotted the i's, untied the knots when Congress needed help. For you the Party was your first love, you never thought of self 'Alvida Ahmadbhai'."
Another senior leader Shashi Tharoor said he was deeply saddened by the news of Patel's death.
"A formidable political figure, a man of profound intelligence & prodigious memory. His extraordinary range of knowledge, considerable understanding & sharp instincts made him 'Mr Politics' to many in @incIndia. A shattering loss for secular politics," Tharoor said.
"Deeply saddened by the passing away of Ahmed Patel. A friend and colleague of many years, an indispensable troubleshooter for the Congress, he was a friend to many across the political spectrum and invested heavily in personal relationships. He will be missed by all. May the Lord rest his soul in peace . My deepest condolences to Faisal and the family," another former Union minister Ashwani Kumar said.
Patel was an eight-time parliamentarian -- five times in the Rajya Sabha, three times in the Lok Sabha.
His last Rajya Sabha election was contested keenly.
He was currently the Congress treasurer, a post that he occupied thrice.(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)