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Navjot Singh Sidhu bats on front foot at photo-op with CM Amarinder

The Times of India logo The Times of India 24-07-2021 Vibhor Mohan
Navjot Singh Sidhu et al. around each other © Provided by The Times of India

CHANDIGARH: The much-awaited photo op of Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh with Navjot Singh Sidhu finally happened with the CM hosting the newly appointed PCC chief and other Congress MLAs and MPs over tea at Punjab Bhawan on Friday and the two warring factions of the state Congress projecting a united face.

Minutes later, the CM attended the ceremony at the Punjab Congress office as Sidhu formally took charge as PCC chief. Amarinder congratulated him and talked about "working together for the welfare of Punjab", just days after putting a precondition of a public apology by the Amritsar East MLA for his tweets against the CM.

The cricketer-turned-politician mimicked a lofted shot, as if hitting a sixer, as he went past the CM to deliver his speech. There were people’s issues that needed resolution, he said, addressing Amarinder. On his part, the CM told party workers, "It is your responsibility to support the party president."

Sidhu spoke of infusing new life in the party cadres, while listing the various issues facing the state – farmers’ stir, sacrilege case, protests by various employee groups and the previous government’s power purchase agreement with companies. "CM saheb, there are issues that need to be resolved," he said. "Punjab is asking questions. Why should electricity be bought at Rs 18 per unit? Why shouldn’t the truth of the power purchase pacts be brought out?"

On the other hand, Amarinder listed the key achievements of his government and said the focus should be on strengthening the Congress party. "When Soniaji told me that they want to make Navjot Singh the new president, I came out and told the press that we will bow before the decision of the Congress president. Now, we will have to be together in the fight for keeping Punjab and our country safe."

Describing the fight against Covid, the state’s top ranking in primary education and the highest contribution of wheat crop to the central pool as his government’s key achievements, the CM said: "But with time, the expectations of people grow, and they start complaining about unfinished works."

On the sacrilege issue, Amarinder sought to clarify that sometimes legal issues crop up. "Challans in Bargari, Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan cases have been submitted. These things take time. They (Badals) gave the investigations to the CBI, we took it back from the apex court. They have been exposed, the Badals and Majithia will be decimated in the next elections," he said.

"Not only Punjab, we have a duty towards the nation. We share a 600-kilometre border with Pakistan and daily ammunition is reaching there; they want to spoil the atmosphere, drones are being sent. The people of Punjab will have to join in the fight and remain vigilant… Navjot, you will have to bring Punjabis along to fight this with courage," he said, adding, "I don’t trust the Akalis or AAP, we have reports that AAP is complicit."

Sidhu raised the issue of drugs and said, "We will have to disclose the names of the big fish". The new PCC chief spoke of taking everyone along. "I have a thick skin, nothing bothers me. I have no ego and will work shoulder to shoulder with you. Those who criticise me make me better."

Making a veiled reference to Badals, Sidhu said he will soon get into action and set up base at the Congress Bhawan on August 15 and would also want ministers to spend three hours every day there. "I will not back out from the 18-point agenda of the high command. The Punjab model will beat the Delhi model," he said, in a jibe directed at AAP.

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