THE long-awaited switch by a group of Punjab Assembly legislators from the PPP to the PML-N has finally taken place. Nine members of the provincial assembly left the PPP for PML-N on Friday, joined by another well-known PPP leader from Lahore who adds greater weight to the already impressive catch. It was further announced that two PML-Q members of the National Assembly and from Punjab have gone over to the PML-N. This is a real setback to the PML-N’s opponents. Many of these departures are rooted in the making and breaking of alliances at the local level. Yet the development is also in sync with observations which place the PML-N as a party on the ascent in several parts of the province — and hence, in many areas as the first choice of an election aspirant. Given this impression, there may be more desertions.

The other parties are also drawing politicians to their respective folds as the elections draw closer. In recent weeks, the PPP has stolen two PML-N MNAs from Jhelum, which is why its criticism of its MPAs joining PML-N makes little sense. In today’s cut-throat politics, it may feel it has to hit back which it can only do by successfully wooing some known N-League names to its side. Given its own preferences in recent times including the slogan of the Seraiki province that it has raised, the PPP will find it hard to have good enough candidates in upper Punjab. And these are the areas where it needs to contain the Sharifs most urgently. Under such circumstances, the thinking could be to go over the results of past elections and, on the sheer strength of the votes polled, locate names to take on party deserters under its banner. This is how election politics has worked for long and this is how it remains. In the garb of local-level politicians, these are the same old mercenaries. In changing their camps they are looking for a commander who can best lead them — who can best reward them for their services and for their current loyalties. That is the catch.

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