Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu on Friday made it clear that he was in full form for playing his new innings as the Punjab Congress chief by executing a bat stroke with the flourish of his arms in the air before making his way to the podium — giving a glimpse of his cricketing days when he was popularly known as “sixer Sidhu”.
Starting his new inning as the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president in the presence of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, Sidhu’s blitzkrieg speech virtually placed his own party’s Government in dock over the issues of sacrilege, drugs, costly power, among others.
“Punjab poochhda hai, sawaal karda hai (Punjab is asking, it is questioning),” said Sidhu while insisting that we need to act on these issues.
Raking up the issues of “guru di beadbi” (sacrilege incidents), and deaths due to drugs, Sidhu maintained that the Government needs to act against those who are guilty and responsible for these. Without naming anyone, Sidhu, speaking in Punjabi in a spirited display of aggression and rhetoric, said, “Jija-saala rehn nahi dena, kothe te totta behn ni dena (loosely translated that Jija-Saala duo will not be spared.”
Also raising the issue of costly power in Punjab, Sidhu questioned why the State would buy power at `18, “Why the truth behind these pacts not come out...choraan di chori kyun nahi fadi jaani chahidi,” hinting at cancelling the contentious power purchase agreements signed by the erstwhile Badal-led Government.
“CM sahib, issues have to be resolved…,” said Sidhu, while gesturing towards Capt Amarinder during his speech.
“The purpose of this PPCC chief’s post for me is to resolve the people’s issues. And if these are not resolved, it counts for nothing,” Sidhu said.
At the same time, Sidhu made an attempt to bypass his run-ins with the Chief Minister by making it clear that his focus areas are the farmers protesting in Delhi, the problems of doctors and nurses and teachers, drivers and conductors, who were protesting on roads.
At the same time, he declared that he has no ego issues and will take everyone along and work shoulder-to-shoulder. “The Congress party is united today, contrary to what our Opposition is saying,” he said, in presence of former PPCC presidents, including his predecessor Sunil Jakhar, Cabinet Ministers, party MPs and MLAs, among other senior leadership.
Declaring that he got “thick-skinned” and cares for nothing more than Punjab’s well-being, Sidhu maintained that those opposing him were only helping him to be better while those supporting him, are his suraksha kavach (security cover).
He named Cabinet Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa — who were once considered to be Capt Amarinder’s loyalists, and also “Bibi” Rajinder Kaur Bhattal — the former Chief Minister-among those supporting him.
“There is no difference between an ordinary party worker and the state unit chief. Every Congress worker in Punjab has become the chief of the party’s State unit from today,” declared the former swashbuckling Indian cricketer in his opening remarks to an elated crowd that gave him a roaring round of applause and cheers in return.
“There is no party without workers...We are incomplete without the power of our workers, who are the party’s soul...I will only work for Punjab. This is just not an address, but my soul talking. Workers are the soul of the party,” said Sidhu, adding that his main aim is to make these workers a bridge in our “haq and sach di ladayi” (the fight of rights and the truth).
“All will be Sikander,” he added.
WILL SET UP MY BISTAR IN CONGRESS BHAVAN FROM AUG 15
In an apparent attempt to send across the signal that he would be accessible to all party leaders and workers round-the-clock, Sidhu declared that he would stay put at Punjab Congress Bhawan from August 15.
At the same time, he asked the Cabinet Ministers to dedicate some time to the party workers and sit at Congress Bhawan to listen to their grievances. “15 August ton mera bistar Congress Bhawan vich lagega...if Ministers can also come here and give their
time to the workers,” he said, adding he could only give them a suggestion.
‘POST IS NOT AN ISSUE, BUT PROTESTING FARMERS, TEACHERS’ ARE’
Making it clear that posts or positions never matter to him, Sidhu asserted that the real issue for him are the protesting farmers, teachers, doctors and nurses.
“My fight is not the issue, farmers sitting in Delhi, protesting TET qualified teachers, the problems of doctors and nurses are the real issues,” he said, adding that he never cared for posts.
“I have thrown away the posts...I gave up the Cabinet berth too,” he said, adding that if he could not resolve Punjab’s issues, the president’s post is of no good to him.
Sidhu also urged the farmers to give him time to meet. “I want to meet you...I want to discuss what could be the resolution to the problem...how the Government can come to your help,” he said to the farmers.