Lodhran Elections The Writing on the Wall

The recent Lodhran bye Elections, NA 154, results alarmed PTI leadership. Their candidate Ali Tareen lost by a margin of 27000 votes to PML-N’s Syed Iqbal Shah. In 2015 Jahangir Tareen had won the elections from the very constituency with a sizable vote bank. What went wrong this time?

The constituency was considered a secure ground for PTI and the results took the whole country back. Losing a key seat in the national assembly is a forewarning for PTI and other parties contesting in Punjab. The politics of central Punjab is going to be more complex this time around and parties cannot forecast victory on the basis of previous results alone. There is a lesson to be learnt from Lodhran.

According to news reports PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry that his party had high expectations and didn’t quite follow the trends. It is hoped that the inquiry into the NA-154 will shed more light into the reasons for the poll outcome.

Fawad also said that the nomination of Ali Tareen was a joint decision of PTI’s central committee. Tareen senior earlier ruled out Ali’s nomination to be branded as dynastic politics stressing upon party decision. Only last year Sharifs also came to this fork in the road, deciding against nomination of children in their stead. Maryum Nawaz victory in the NA-120 district Lahore, a traditional decade old.

This was Ali’s first election and sources in the party state that his management may have failed to properly help him run his course. Both candidates had under a month for the campaign and Ali mentioned that as one of the challenges to the media. The competition was a symbolic one for both parties and their candidates were fined by ECP for violating the by-election’s code of conduct by engaging in political campaigning after the deadline.

Lodhran election also signify that financial resources alone cannot ensure results. Both PTI and PML-N candidates had used surplus funds during their campaign to the polling day. However what merited Syed Iqbal Shah over Ali Tareen was the fact that he was a local and had a strong presence. Iqbal, a farmer, had earlier served as Tehsil Nazim and Chairman Union Council. He is also a pir, spiritual leader, which awards him respect in his constituency.

This was Ali’s first elections. Jahangir Tareen, is undoubtedly a respected name in the region for his sugar factory, providing employment to many and his interest in the development in the area. But lately media analysts also criticised him for losing touch with the people of his candidacy. His trips of the constituency were usually via helicopters allowing minimum contact with the people. A vote band consisting largely of farmers, there were reported complaints for low prices set by the sugar mill for their sugar cane.

The dynamics of central Punjab to follow in future: Money; physical presence; dynasty; voters needs(sugar cane prices);trends and expectations; bringing new local candidates; on-ground campaign; government infrastructure promises on welfare projects; adequate campaign time(Ali Tareen prepped in 20 days)

Wounded animal PTI urban rural dynamic.

PML-N’s Iqbal Shah managed to attain 113,542 votes, while his competitor, PTI’s Ali Tareen, contesting his first election on his father’s seat, attained 85,933 votes.

PML-N won by a margin of 27,609 votes according to provisional results. The seat fell vacant in the wake of the disqualification of PTI leader Jahangir Tareen by the Supreme Court in December 2017.

Considered the home ground of Tareen, PTI had won the seat with a margin of around 40,000 votes in a previous by-election in 2015.

Shah’s victory is a clear indication for the PTI and PPP that they will have to do something different in Punjab in Elections 2018 to break the myth of PML-N.

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