Trends in NA-120 polls
With Hamza Shahbaz having proceeded abroad, Maryam Nawaz has taken over the campaign in NA-120. The abrupt transition from drawing room parleys to constituency politics will be an initial test of her ability. Benazir Bhutto had to cross a river of fire before she was acknowledged by senior politicians as a leader.
The PML-N which controls Local Government top slots has mobilised councilors, vice-chairmen and chairmen of the LG for door-to-door canvassing. The PML-N also counts on the assistance of its blue eyed boys in bureaucracy. Nawaz Sharif had won with a margin of nearly 40,000 votes against PTI’s Yasmin Rashid in 2013. For PTI to overtake the big lead would be no cakewalk.
Both the PML-N and PTI are building their campaigns around the SC’s Panamagate verdict. The PMLN portrays Nawaz Sharif as a victim of a conspiracy. The people’s court, it maintains is superior to any other court. How can a prime minister who has avowedly brought terrorism under control, ended load shedding and implemented CPEC be disqualified? What is implied is that Sharif’s performance provides him immunity from the law. The PML-N hopes to ride to victory on a sympathy wave. But can the party create the momentum?
The PTI campaign revolves around the slogan of eradicating corruption. Imran Khan maintains that by electing the PTI candidate, voters would strengthen SC’s hands which has for the first time taken action against powerful mafia. Which of the two cards will win – corruption or victimisation – remains to be seen. The record of the PTI in past bye-elections in Punjab has been dismal. Can the party counter the traditional manipulation of bureaucracy by the party in power with greater unity in its ranks and a more efficient election machinery? The election results will also show if Maryam can manage the party machinery and bureaucracy better in the absence of Shahbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz. The ECP is seen by many as an ineffectual body incapable of going beyond issuing explanations when called upon to stop election irregularities. In case the trend persists the ECP’s reliability would be widely questioned.