Congress MLAs, workers and other political parties organised a protest outside the Hoshiarpur Central Co-operative Bank's main branch on Railway Road on Wednesday, alleging that the bank officials on election duty had illegally rejected the nomination papers of some of its candidates for directorship in the board of management.
Three protesting MLAs and one former MLA even removed their shirts in protest. They alleged that this was a ploy by the ruling SAD government to take control of the bank.
District president and local MLA Sunder Sham Arora, Urmur MLA Sangat Singh Gilzian and Mukerian MLA Rajnish Kumar Babbi led the protest, which lasted for hours.
The leaders claimed that list of eligible candidates for the elections was to be displayed outside the office at 2 pm. However, the list was delayed by more than an hour. It was while a huge number of Congress workers and candidates were waiting for the list that some agitated protesters, including Cong district president Sunder Sham Arora removed their shirts. High security was then deployed in the area to prevent any untoward incident.
Gilzian alleged that nomination papers of Harmeet Singh Aulakh from zone 5 were rejected on the grounds that he had not affixed the resolution of his society whereas, he said the election office had duly issued a receipt in his favour.
He said the government was bent upon destroying democratic institutions.
Arora accused the government of manipulating the polls.
After the list was finally displayed, many other candidates belonging to different parties who found their papers rejected, joined the protest.
Returning officer (RO) Davinder Parshad Handa refuted charges of manipulation and claimed that elections were being held in a transparent and fair manner.
He said that the complainants had the option of going in for a petition before the competent authority, if they were not satisfied with reasons given for rejection.
“Most zones are witnessing election. If the government had manipulated the elections, then most ruling party candidates would have been elected unopposed. There is no malafide intention on government's part,” said the RO.
SAD leader Satwinderpal Singh, who was announced unopposed winner from zone no 5, and has his eyes on chairmanship, said that when complainant's lawyer had contested his case before the election observer and the verdict was yet to arrive, there was no need for a protest.
He alleged that the Congress had deliberately created a controversy to take the matter to court. The dharna was lifted by around 4 pm, but Arora said that the agitation would continue on Thursday and Congress workers would gherao the deputy commissioner and the SSP.
Three candidates have been declared elected unopposed to the board of directors; Satwinderpal Singh from zone no 5, Avtar Singh Johal from zone no 8 (industrial) and Amarit Singh from zone 1, the RO said, adding that elections for the rest of the six zones would be held on May 6.