New Delhi, February 04:

Political parties in Punjab face a major test as the state goes to urban local body (ULB) polls in 10 days from now and unrest in and around the states continues due to agitation against three laws enacted by the central government in September last year.

Months after Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) withdrew its support to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre in September to express its dissent against the agricultural legislation, several BJP leaders in Punjab have decided to go solo in the civic body polls fearing backlash.

“We want to avoid any conflict with farmer unions in the electoral battle. Farmer unions are opposing the BJP from holding any political or social programme, hence I am contesting as Independent,” BJP’s Bathinda district president Vinod Kumar Binta, who is contesting as an Independent from Bhucho Mandi municipal council.

Of the 22 urban local bodies in Doaba, comprising Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar districts, the BJP has not been able to field candidates on all seats in 18 ULBs. BJP office-bearers, who are in-charge of polls, said the party has fielded all candidates in Nawanshahr (19 in 19 wards), Mukerian (15 in 15) and 49 in 50 wards of Hoshiarpur.

While several BJP leaders in Punjab accused the SAD and Congress of threatening its representative, Congress general secretary and Kartarpur improvement trust chairman, Rana Randhawa, denied the claims, saying “The BJP has lost ground in Punjab due to anti-farmer policies.”

Meanwhile, SAD has accused the state election commission of having failed to perform its duty in the run up to the civic body polls and said it should be “wound up”. The remarks come after party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal’s car was damaged in a clash between Congress and Akali workers in Jalalabad. The SAD terms the incident as a “murderous attack” on Akali workers and Badal by “police-backed Congress goons,”

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) stood up against the ruling Congress party alleging it was preventing AAP candidates from filing nomination papers at several places in the state. AAP legislator Aman Arora alleged that the “blatant misuse” of power and government resources by the Congress was “reprehensible and oppressive”. He also accused the grand old party of :kidnapping an AAP candidate at Sunam.

Elections will be conducted to eight municipal corporations, 109 municipal councils and nagar panchayats in Punjab on February 14. This will be the first poll exercise in the northern state amid farm stir called by farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, against the Centre’s agricultural laws.