Preparing for Punjab

Upcoming LG polls crucial for PTI

Despite being in power in the province for over nine years with two consecutive terms, the PTI faced a crushing defeat in local bodies elections held in KP at the hands of the opposition, much to the displeasure of Prime Minister Imran Khan who has since restructured the entire PTI prior to Punjab’s LB polls. Additionally, he has been in Lahore for the past few days to personally coordinate candidate selection and campaigning efforts to make sure that there isn’t a repeat of what happened in KP. To that end, he has held various meetings with allies and his party’s Punjab leadership. However, there are a lot of variables at play in Punjab that simply cannot be addressed before March-April when LB polls are planned to be held. The most pressing issue at hand that has candidates on PTI’s ticket nervous and concerned about their prospects of success and voters up in arms is inflation. In addition to a tax-heavy mini-budget that has been tabled by the government, international commodity prices are unlikely to come down anytime soon, which almost certainly means that prices are only headed in one direction; north.

In an attempt to counter this, the PTI has extended its universal health insurance scheme to Punjab that on paper will provide medical coverage to every citizen of the province for up to Rs 1 million at any hospital, public or private. That the same strategy did not work in KP should serve as an indication to the ruling party, that health insurance only becomes a priority for people when they are able to afford three square meals a day with a roof over their heads. Apart from parties such as the PML(N) that still commands a sizable vote bank in Punjab, the PPP is also gearing up to take the PTI head on. Another cause for concern, one that should have all parties worried, is the TLP element. Whether or not it is able to win seats remains to be seen but it will surely pull a chunk of traditionally PML(N)a and PTI voters into its fold. A KP-like upset in Punjab for the PTI will not bode well for a government already coming apart at the seams, trying its best to maintain numbers that are pretty thin to begin with.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]

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