Ahmed Patel and Tarun Gogoi: Cong says last goodbye to two stalwarts
The Congress on Thursday bid a final farewell to Ahmed Patel and Tarun Gogoi, two stalwarts who stood unflinchingly by the party through its many highs and lows over the decades and died of COVID-19 related complications within two days of each other.PTI | Bharuch | Updated: 26-11-2020 20:23 IST | Created: 26-11-2020 20:22 IST
The Congress on Thursday bid a final farewell to Ahmed Patel and Tarun Gogoi, two stalwarts who stood unflinchingly by the party through its many highs and lows over the decades and died of COVID-19 related complications within two days of each other. Patel, the Congress' crisis manager and consensus builder, died on Wednesday at a Gurugram hospital and was laid to rest at his village Piraman in his home state Gujarat's Bharuch district. Gogoi, a three-time Assam chief minister and an old Congress hand, passed away on Monday and was cremated in Guwahati.
Patel was 71 and Gogoi 84. Hundreds of Congress leaders and workers showed up in Piraman and Guwahati to mourn the deaths of their two veterans. Both leaders were staunch Gandhi family loyalists and their commitment to the party never wavered. Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi attended the funeral of Patel, the Congress' top strategist and troubleshooter who consciously stayed away from the limelight and was widely perceived to be one of the most powerful men in the party. Patel's mortal remains reached Piraman from Vadodara on Wednesday night and were kept at Sardar Patel Hospital in Ankleshwar. He was buried at a Muslim cemetery in Piraman in the presence of locals and Congress leaders in the morning.
Gandhi reached Piraman by road and met the family members of the eight-time MP at their ancestral home. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who said on Wednesday that she had lost an irreplaceable comrade and a friend, sent flowers to pay her last respects. Patel -- who had been her most trusted lieutenant for most of her tenure as the longest serving Congress president, standing by her through sun and shade -- was laid to rest after the final 'namaz' was offered. In accordance with his wishes, he was buried next to the graves of his parents.
Gujarat Congress president Amit Chavda, Congress in-charge for Gujarat Rajeev Satav, leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, and former chief ministers Kamal Nath and Shankersinh Vaghela were among those who attended the funeral. From the western state of Gujarat to the northeast of the country in Assam, another funeral was taking place, of equal significance to the Congress. Assam bid an emotional goodbye to the three-time chief minister, twice Union minister and six-time Lok Sabha MP. Gogoi's final rites were performed with full state honours at the Nabagraha cremation ground amid the chanting of hymns, preceded by a gun salute and band played by the Assam Police. His son Gaurav, also a Lok Sabha MP, performed the last rites. In keeping with the belief system of the political leader who was a "secular leader in theory and practice", his body was taken to a church, a 'namghar', mosque, temple and a Bihu function field in accordance with his wishes before it was consigned to flames.
It was an emotional journey, rarely seen in Assam, with scores of admirers and onlookers stopping the flower-bedecked truck at several places, bowing their heads before the huge cutouts of Gogoi on the vehicle, and offering floral tributes. Men and women lined along the streets and stood at rooftops right through the nearly 25-km procession route.
The crowd thickened as the day advanced. Cutting across age groups, some people could be seen crying. Traditional drums and cymbals were played, and conch shells blown.
Shops and commercial establishments at several places in Guwahati and other parts of the state pulled their shutters down as a mark of respect. The state government had announced a half-day holiday from 1 pm on Thursday. "Gogoi sir was truly a secular leader in theory and practice. There are many leaders who preach secularism, but never follow it," said Congress spokesperson Rhituporna Konwar.
Congress general secretary Jitendra Singh and several other prominent leaders paid their last respects to the departed leader at his residence. The cortege finally reached the Nabagraha crematorium at around 2 pm after a three-and-half-hour long procession, almost three hours later than its scheduled time. The administration had arranged 1,000 seats in the crematorium complex. Others could watch the proceedings on big LED screens installed outside. "I am a Congressman and will be so till the last breath of my life," Gogoi had once said. He remained true to his words till the very end.
He is credited with bringing the various militant outfits, including the ULFA, to the negotiating table, hauling out Assam from the brink of bankruptcy and putting it back on the track of development. In a letter to Gaurav Gogoi, Sonia Gandhi said the loss was a deeply personal one.
"Shri Tarun Gogoi was one of the tallest leaders of the Congress party, admired and respected for his extraordinary wisdom, vision and ability. With his long years of experience as an MLA, an MP, a Central Minister and Chief Minister of Assam, he was someone to whose unfailingly wise counsel and advice we could always turn to," the Congress chief said. The loss of both Patel and Gogoi will be deeply felt in the grand old party and its leadership, said several party insiders.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)