Navjot Singh Sidhu takes charge as Punjab Congress captain

Much-awaited coronation goes off smoothly after Sidhu gets chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s backing with state headed for elections early next year
Navjot Singh Sidhu after taking over as Punjab Congress president from Sunil Jakhar (right) with chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh by his side at the state Congress Bhawan in Chandigarh on Friday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)
Navjot Singh Sidhu after taking over as Punjab Congress president from Sunil Jakhar (right) with chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh by his side at the state Congress Bhawan in Chandigarh on Friday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)
Updated on Jul 23, 2021 03:07 PM IST
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Navjot Singh Sidhu formally took over as the captain of the Punjab Congress in Chandigarh on Friday in the presence of chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh with the party trying to put up a united show after months of bickering in the run-up to the assembly elections early next year.

Also read: Sidhu bonds with Capt over tea before taking charge as Punjab Congress captain

A day after the chief minister softened his stance towards Sidhu by deciding to attend the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee team’s installation ceremony, Capt Amarinder Singh struck a conciliatory note in his address to party workers, saying “It is your responsibility to support the party president.”

After taking charge at the state Congress headquarters, Sidhu was in form and said there was no difference between an ordinary worker of the party and its state unit chief. “Every Congress worker in Punjab has become the chief of the party’s state unit from today,” the Amritsar East MLA said.

The new working presidents of the Punjab Congress, namely Sangat Singh Gilzian, Sukhwinder Singh Danny, Pawan Goel and Kuljit Singh Nagra, also assumed charge at the event at the party’s state headquarters that was packed with supporters.

Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh congratulating Navjot Singh Sidhu on his elevation as the Punjab Congress chief in Chandigarh on Friday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)
Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh congratulating Navjot Singh Sidhu on his elevation as the Punjab Congress chief in Chandigarh on Friday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)

Capt strikes a nostalgic note

In his address, Capt Amarinder Singh went down memory lane and recalled their Patiala ties with Sidhu, saying: “I was commissioned in the army, the year Sidhu was born. When my mother asked me to enter politics, his (Sidhu’s) father helped me. I used to go to his house when he was about six years old.”

Padding up for a challenging innings in his political career, the cricketer-turned-politician said he will have love for juniors and respect for elders. “Punjab will win, Punjabis will win,” he said.

The chief minister took the opportunity to highlight the Punjab pride and the Congress government’s achievements. “The state emerged number one in the fight against Covid and was rated first in primary education besides making the biggest contribution to the country’s food bowl,” he said.

Navjot Singh Sidhu hugging his predecessor, Sunil Jakhar, at the installation ceremony in Chandigarh on Friday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)
Navjot Singh Sidhu hugging his predecessor, Sunil Jakhar, at the installation ceremony in Chandigarh on Friday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)

Congress revival through Punjab: Jakhar

In his address, the outgoing state Congress chief Sunil Jakhar said: “We were hit by red tapism in our government. Our workers suffered due to that, but still we have time. We can course correct even now.”

Looking at All India Congress Committee general secretary and Punjab affairs in-charge Harish Rawat, Jakhar said: “Rawat ji please tell (Congress interim president) Sonia (Gandhi) ji that revival of the Congress goes through Punjab.”

On his part, Rawat urged all leaders to work unitedly and ensure the party’s win in the assembly elections.

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

Capt, Sidhu met after four months

Earlier in the morning, Sidhu and Capt Amarinder Singh met for the first time in four months since tensions between them flared up in April after the Punjab and Haryana high court quashed a probe report on the 2015 Kotkapura police firing incident. Sidhu attacked the chief minister through his tweets over the alleged delay in justice in the 2015 sacrilege and subsequent police firing incidents.

Sidhu had resigned as a state minister in 2019 after he was divested of the local bodies portfolio.

He had switched sides from the BJP to the Congress before the 2017 state assembly elections.

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Friday, October 22, 2021