In an apparent show of strength, Navjot Singh Sidhu, who became the Punjab Congress chief on Sunday, after months of a bitter, polarising spat between him and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, marshalled a group of 62 MLAs to Golden Temple in Amritsar on Wednesday. The leaders are likely to visit Durgiana Mandir and Ram Tirath Sthal.
Sidhu had invited all 77 Congress lawmakers to pay obeisance at Golden Temple before he takes over formally the role of the Punjab Congress chief, but only 62 of them turned up at this residence in Amritsar, according to his aides.
“I have taken oath. Punjab’s progress is my motive. Punjab’s progress is my progress,” said Sidhu, who will assume charge of his office at Congress headquarters in Chandigarh at 11 am on Friday. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will also be invited for the coronation of Sidhu tomorrow. Congress Working President Kuljeet Nagra has been assigned to invite the CM for the ceremony.
Sidhu, who arrived in Amritsar on Tuesday, got a rousing welcome when he reached Amritsar after becoming the PPCC chief. Sidhu visited Khatkar Kalan, the ancestral village of Bhagat Singh, to pay tributes to the freedom fighter at his memorial yesterday.
At Nawanshahr, he was accompanied by MLAs Kuljit Singh Nagra, who is one of the four working presidents appointed by the Congress, Raj Kumar Verka, Angad Saini, Sukhpal Bhullar, Inderbir Singh Bolaria and Gurpreet Singh GP. There was heavy police deployment in the area and barricades were put up.
After paying floral tributes, Sidhu, along with other party leaders, headed towards Amritsar. Scores of Congress workers and supporters accorded a warm welcome to the cricketer-turned-politician when he arrived at the main entry point-Golden Gate in Amritsar.
Among party leaders who welcomed Sidhu included MLAs Inderbir Singh Baloria, Raj Kumar Verka, Sunil Dutti, Sukhwinder Singh Danny and leader Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lali. Sidhu’s supporters and party workers were dancing to the beats of a “dhol”.
The party workers put up posters of Sidhu at many places in the city.
Before going to his residence, Sidhu went to a hospital for the treatment of his injury to his right foot’s toe. The nail of his toe broke at Khatkar Kalan in Nawanshahr. He was discharged after dressing.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday appointed Navjot Singh Sidhu as the new president of the party’s Punjab unit, notwithstanding the strong opposition from chief minister Amarinder Singh. Gandhi also appointed four working presidents to assist Sidhu in the run-up to the next assembly elections.
Day after his appointment, Sidhu on Monday pledged to work with every “member of the Cong family” to fulfil the ‘Jittega Punjab’ mission. The 57-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, who had a busy day calling on leaders and ministers, thanked the Congress leadership for appointing him head of the Punjab unit, asserted he would strengthen the party’s organisation in the state. Assembly polls in the Congress-ruled state are due next year.
Sidhu had arrived in Chandigarh Monday morning and met several party leaders, including former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhathal, ministers Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Charanjit Singh, Razia Sultana and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa.
He also shared a picture of his father with India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. “To share prosperity, privilege and freedom not just among a few but among all, My father a Congress worker left a royal household and joined the freedom struggle, was sentenced to death for his patriotic work reprieved by the King’s Amnesty became DCC President, MLA, MLC and advocate general,” Sidhu added in a Twitter post.
Sidhu arrived in Chandigarh from Patiala on Monday morning, along with MLAs Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, Kulbir Zira and Madan Lal Jalalpur. They went straight to meet MLA Kuljit Singh Nagra at his residence in Mohali. Nagra was one of the four working presidents appointed by the Congress.
At Nagra’s residence, sweets were distributed and a cake was cut. Sidhu also met Punjab Youth Congress chief Barinder Singh Dhillon at his residence.
Thereafter, he went to the residence of Jakhar who expressed confidence that the Amritsar East legislator would meet the expectations of people of Punjab. Jakhar said that the party would fight the upcoming polls with a united face.
From Jakhar’s residence, Sidhu along with some party legislators went to meet minister Razia Sultana. Sidhu and several party legislators later assembled at the residence of minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa.
He then went to the residence of former Punjab CM Rajinder Kaur Bhathal to seek her blessings. Sidhu had been meeting party leaders for the past few days, even before his elevation as PPCC chief.