“From here on, there is no difference between a worker and a leader of the party. I have no ego, I will work with all the party workers shoulder to shoulder. The workers are like the soul of a leader. I will respect the elders, and will love those younger than me,” Sidhu said in his maiden speech as state party chief.
Sharing the stage with chief minister Amarinder Singh after a long time, Sidhu outlined his priorities as party chief and said “Punjab will win, Punjabis will win.”
“The Congress is united and my aim is to work towards giving power back to people,” he added.
Amarinder, who had been at loggerheads with Sidhu for quite some time, also signalled truce and said “We will move together in politics. We have to think of Punjab’s welfare.”
“And not just Punjab, we have responsibility for the country as our state shares a long border with Pakistan,” he added.
The chief minister urged party workers to extend full support to the new state president.
Earlier, Amarinder had not only strongly opposed Sidhu’s elevation as the state party chief but had also refused a meeting till the cricketer-turned-politician apologised for his “derogatory” tweets.
In his speech, Sidhu said he never hankered for any post and mentioned that he had given up cabinet berth earlier.
Sidhu said the purpose of his presidentship was to resolve people’s issues and he highlighted several of them in his speech.
He extended an olive branch to the protesting doctors, nurses, teachers and bus conductors, who have been on roads for their demands.
“My fights are not the issue, the farmers sitting in Delhi, the protesting TET qualified teachers, the problems of doctors and nurses and bus conductors are the real issues,” Sidhu 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,” he said.
Reiterating his commitment to provide electricity to consumers in the state at the highly subsidized rates, Sidhu asked his government why electricity was being purchased for Rs 12 per unit.
He also talked about costly power purchase pacts signed by the previous SAD-BJP government and still continuing during the Congress government.
Sidhu, who replaced 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 event was attended by Congress general secretary Harish Rawat, who is also the in-charge of Punjab affairs at the AICC.
Former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, senior party leaders Partap Singh Bajwa and Lal Singh were also present.
‘I was commissioned in Army, the year Sidhu was born’
Ahead of taking charge of the state Congress, Sidhu met the chief minister at Punjab Bhawan here.
The chief minister had invited party MLAs for tea at Punjab Bhawan ahead of the installation ceremony at the party headquarters in Chandigarh.
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.
Sidhu had on Thursday written a letter to the CM requesting him to come for the installation ceremony, calling him the “eldest of the Punjab Congress family” and saying he had “no personal agenda”.
Amarinder in his speech 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.”
Remembering his ties with Sidhu’s family, Amarinder Singh said they would work together for the state.
“I was commissioned in the Army, the year Sidhu was born. When my mother asked me to enter politics, his (Sidhu) father helped me. I used to go to his house when he was about six years old,” said Amarinder Singh.
Tensions between Amarinder 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.
Sidhu had resigned as a state minister in 2019 after he was divested of his local bodies portfolio.
A two-minute silence was 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.
The Congress workers were killed in a head-on collision between a private bus and a Punjab Roadways bus.
The victims, travelling in a mini bus, were enroute Chandigarh from Zira in Moga district to attend the coronation ceremony of newly-appointed Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu.