For most of his political life, and as Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary for 16 years, Ahmed Patel has preferred to wield power behind the scenes. But the dramatic way in which he won his Rajya Sabha seat in the face of insuperable odds — that included rebellious party colleagues and a formidable adversary, Amit Shah, who made it into a personal battle — has not just pushed him into the arc lights but even given him a heroic glow.
It has been a huge morale booster for the rank and file of the Congress, who see this victory as evidence that its leaders still have some fighting spirit left in them. The party’s belief in his powers to take on the might of Mr. Shah and the BJP party machine have also been endorsed.
But if this victory is to be converted into a turning point, much is yet to be done to convert the Congress into a lean and mean fighting machine.
Its heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi, has still to prove himself, the 2019 team is still not in place, and the party has still to create a credible counter-narrative to that of the BJP.
For the Congress Gujarat unit, Mr. Patel’s win could go some way to restore its self-esteem.