E Ahamed, MP and Indian Muslims' secular face, passes away

Former union cabinet minister E AhamedIndian Union Muslim League national president and former union cabinet minister E Ahamed passed away early on Wednesday morning at the Ram Manohar Lohya Hospital in New Delhi.

Ahamed (78) had collapsed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday after suffering a cardiac arrest and was rushed to hospital the hospital where he died.

Ahamed had a long innings in national politics. He currently represented Kerala's Muslim-dominated Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency.

He was known for his secular outlook among the Muslim politicians in India. He was considered a consummate politician and skilled negotiator, apart from being an avid football fan.

He was a Member of Parliament for 25 years and a state legislator for 18 years. He was minister for industries in Kerala from 1982-87 and union minister of state for external affairs from 2004-09. He also held the portfolios of railways and human resource development in the second United Progressive Alliance government under Manmohan Singh.

Ahamed will be remembered for his secular stand, and for making it clear in the United Nations Assembly that Indian Muslims didn't want Kashmir to join Pakistan. His statement gave India a diplomatic edge over Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

His diplomacy helped India maintain a warm relationship with the Arab world, which considered him a trusted friend.  He used his personal rapport with the Arabs for cementing India's ties with Gulf nations.

Born in Kannur in a business family, Ahamed  joined the IUML during his student days. His affable manners and notable intelligence helped him to become chairman of Kannur Municipal Council when he was 25. Later he shifted to Malappuram where he was clearly the most popular politician among IUML cadres.

Ahamed took a strong stand after the demolition of Babri Masjid to remain allied with the Congress when IUML national president the late Ibrahim Sulaiman Sett wanted to snap ties with it.

"It was a turbulent period in our party. There was high pressure for snapping ties with Congress and shifting to more aggressive stand. But if we had taken such stand, the radical elements would have taken control of our party affairs," E Ahamed once said.

His biggest contribution to Kerala was that he helped block radicalisation among the Muslim community in the state.

Kerala chief minister Pianrayi Vijayan, in his condolence message, remembered Ahamed as a great leader who contributed  for the development of the state. "His death is a great loss not only for his party and family, but also for the state," Vijayan said.

Former chief  minister Oommen Chandy expressed shock at his death. "It was unfortunate we lost a great leader who always stood for the people."

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala told India Today that India lost a great statesman with his death.

"I had close relationship with Ahamed Sahib and we were together in Parliament. I lost a great friend and India lost a secular leader," Chennithala said.