After months of political feud and infighting in Punjab Congress, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu made peace as the Captain attended the latter’s swearing-in ceremony as PPCC chief on Friday. The two leaders decided to reconcile over some tea after a long-drawn cold war and a volley of allegations, all out in the open.
The 57-year-old Amritsar MLA 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. This is the first time in nearly four months that Sidhu and Amarinder Singh met each other.
As the two leaders decided to bury the hatchet, CM Amarinder Singh urged party workers to extend full support to the new state president. “We have to strengthen the Congress party in Punjab. I am telling everyone from this stage that we have to support Sidhu and work together for Punjab."
Ahead of taking charge of the state Congress, Sidhu met the chief minister at Punjab Bhawan. In a viral video of Sidhu greeting the chief minister, 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 Congress general secretary Harish Rawat.
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.
Sidhu and Singh have been at loggerheads for the past some time, especially since the former cricketer-turned-politician’s attack on the CM over desecration cases in the state. Sidhu has been critical of Amarinder Singh after the Punjab and Haryana High Court in April quashed a probe into the 2015 Kotkapura firing case. Sidhu had questioned the alleged “deliberate delay" in ensuring justice and had accused Singh of evading responsibility in the 2015 sacrilege case.
Meanwhile, the chief minister had opposed Sidhu’s appointment as the state Congress chief and had said he won’t meet him until he apologises for his “derogatory" tweets against him.
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 two leaders have shared frosty ties for long and their differences increased when Sidhu was invited by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, a colleague from their cricketing days, for his oath-taking ceremony in August 2018. Despite Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s opposition, Sidhu went to Pakistan and also hugged the country’s army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa when the latter talked about Islamabad’s intention of opening the Kartarpur Sahib corridor for Sikh pilgrims. Further in 2019, Sidhu had blamed Singh after his wife was denied a Lok Sabha ticket from Chandigarh. The chief minister had denied the charge.