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Rabi Banerjee
Rabi Banerjee

KOLKATA

Sultan Ahmed: The man who cemented Mamata’s relations with Muslim clergy

sultan-ahmed (File) TMC MP Sultan Ahmed | PTI

Lok Sabha MP and senior Congress leader Sultan Ahmed passed away on Monday, succumbing to severe cardiac arrest. Ahmed was brought to Belle Vue Clinic at around 12.15pm, after he complained of severe chest pain. He was declared brought dead. He was 64.

Ahmed, the MP from Uluberia in Howrah, was an advisor to Mamata Banerjee on minority affairs issues. He was credited with crafting Mamata Banerjee's pro-Muslim policy, which catapulted her to power in 2011.

Ahmed was also the chairman of West Bengal minority affairs development commission. He was one of the founding members of Trinamool Congress; before that, he was a three-time MLA of Congress in West Bengal. He was the man who brought ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali to Kolkata when the singer was denied permission to hold a concert in Mumbai. A shocked Mamata condoled the death of Ahmed.

He was the minister of state for tourism in the Manmohan Singh administration. He became embroiled in controversy after it was alleged that he accepted bribes in the Narada sting case last year. As a part of the investigation, ED had recently grilled Ahmed for seven hours. Ahmed had contested the claims against him, saying that it was not a bribe but a donation which was spent on party affairs.

Ahmed also played a crucial role in bridging Mamata’s relations with leaders like Akhilesh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav. On his insistence, Mamata travelled to Patna to attend the massive rally organised by Lalu, which many national opposition leaders gave a miss.

“He used to formulate Mamata’s policy on minorities, in the party and in the government,” said a TMC leader close to Mamata.

In an earlier interview, given to THE WEEK, Ahmed said, “It will be prudent decision on our part to contest the elections in Bihar, UP and other north Indian states with the assistance of like-minded parties. If we can get 20 to 30 more seats nationally, then we will be able to project Mamata Banerjee as a prime ministerial candidate.”

An avid football fan, Ahmed was also president of one of the oldest football clubs in India, Mohammedan Sporting Club, Kolkata.

Thanks to his gentle countenance, Ahmed maintained cordial relations with other political parties like CPI(M), Congress (his old party) and even the BJP. He was in regular contact with the Imam of Jama Mosque, and other Islamic clerics across the country. He played a crucial role in dousing communal tension in Basirhat; he personally interfered when the situation got out of hand, ordering a local mosque to disengage from the flare-up.

With Ahmed’s death, Mamata has lost one of her key advisors.

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