National

Navjot Singh Sidhu takes over as Punjab Congress chief

Chandigarh, Jul 23 | Publish Date: 7/23/2021 1:14:48 PM IST

Navjot Singh Sidhu here on Friday took over as the new chief of the Punjab Congress at an event attended by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who said they will work together for the state’s welfare.

Sidhu, who replaces Sunil Jakhar as the state party chief, took charge along with four working presidents at the party headquarters, which was jam-packed with Congress leaders and workers. The party high command had appointed Sangat Singh Gilzian, Sukhwinder Singh Danny, Pawan Goel and Kuljit Singh Nagra as working presidents to assist Sidhu in the run-up to the state Assembly elections next year.

The 57-year-old Amritsar MLA was appointed the Punjab Congress chief, notwithstanding the strong opposition from Amarinder Singh, who had earlier refused to meet Sidhu, citing his “derogatory” tweets against him.

Sidhu in a letter on Thursday requested the CM to come for the installation ceremony, calling him the “eldest of the Punjab Congress family” and saying he had “no personal agenda”.

Softening his stance, the chief minister invited party MLAs for tea at Punjab Bhawan ahead of the installation ceremony at the party headquarters here.

The event was attended by Congress general secretary Harish Rawat, who is also the incharge of Punjab affairs at the AICC.

Former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, senior party leaders Partap Singh Bajwa and Lal Singh were also present.

In his address, Sidhu said he has never hankered for any post and talked about giving up cabinet berth earlier. Sidhu said the purpose of his presidentship is to resolve people’s issues.

The Congress is united and his aim is to work towards giving power back to people, Sidhu stressed.

Sidhu said for him major issues are that of farmers who are protesting for months against the Centre’s “black farm laws”, the issues pertaining to elementary teachers in the state, catching big fish involved in the drug racket and securing justice in desecration cases.

He said workers are the soul of the party, which derives power from them.  

“All Congress workers in Punjab have become the party’s state unit chief today. There is no difference between a leader and a worker,” he said in an emotionally charged speech.

The cricketer-turned-politician said he will have love for juniors and respect for elders.

“Punjab will win, Punjabis will win,” he said.

“I want to tell Punjab farmers that the biggest mission of my presidentship is that the power of the government helps them and improves their lives. We shall make a difference, we have to make a difference. I want to tell farmers that their agitation is pious,” said Sidhu.

While pointing towards Sidhu, Amarinder Singh said they will work together towards the state’s welfare.

“We will move together in politics. We have to think of Punjab’s welfare,” the CM said.

“And not just Punjab, we have responsibility for the country as our state shares a long border with Pakistan,” said Amarinder Singh, adding that the state faces threats and challenges of various nature with a hostile neighbour.

After being earlier opposed to his appointment, the CM said, “When Sonia Gandhi told me that the party wants to make Sidhu as state unit chief, even then I had told the media that whatever decision Soniaji will take, will be acceptable to us.”

The chief minister urged party workers to extend full support to the new state president.

A two-minute silence was also held as a mark of respect for three party workers, who died in an accident early in the day in Moga district while coming to attend the function.

Ahead of taking charge of the state Congress, Sidhu met the chief minister at Punjab Bhawan here.

A video of Sidhu greeting the chief minister was circulating, in which he was heard saying, “How are you, sir?”

The chief minister and the Amritsar (East) MLA were seen sitting next to each other at Punjab Bhawan and later at the party headquarters.

According to Congress MLA Pargat Singh, the meeting between Sidhu and the CM at Punjab Bhawan was “cordial”.

He said Sidhu met the chief minister over tea in the presence of Rawat.

 This is the first time in nearly four months that Sidhu and Amarinder Singh have met each other.

 The chief minister’s media adviser tweeted pictures of the two leaders having a conversation.

 The CM had invited Congress leaders for tea at Punjab Bhawan before the installation ceremony.

 Sidhu came from Patiala and went to Punjab Bhawan shortly before the CM’s  arrival.

 Ministers, Congress MLAs and other senior party leaders were also present at the two venues. 

 Sidhu and the chief minister were at loggerheads for some time, with the Amritsar MLA recently attacking the CM over desecration cases.

The CM had earlier had opposed Sidhu’s appointment as the state Congress chief and said he would not meet him until the cricketer-turned-politician apologises for his “derogatory” tweets against him.

 Tensions between Singh and Sidhu flared up in April after the Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed a probe report on the 2015 Kotkapura police firing incident.

 The Amritsar legislator had resigned as a state minister in 2019 after he was divested of his local bodies portfolio.

 Sidhu had switched sides from the BJP to the Congress before the 2017 Assembly polls. 

 

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