LAHORE: Senate elections are round the corner and the PTI’s Punjab government is trying to keep its MPAs’ numbers intact besides developing voting strategies to grab maximum seats in Punjab. But, it has seemingly closed its eyes to an ‘internal danger’.
Chief Minister Usman Buzdar is meeting the party and allied parties’ parliamentarians as well as some PML-N’s disgruntled MPAs and assuring that their constituency-related problems will be resolved on a priority basis. Prime Minister Imran Khan, in the meantime, has also announced Rs500 million grant for each parliamentarian so that they may carry out development schemes for their voters.
A group comprising some two dozen MPAs, annoyed over Mr Buzdar’s “inability” to stem corruption and for being ignored in the allocation of development projects, hasn’t been approached by the party leadership to regain their confidence. Instead, they have been chided by the chief minister’s close aides, who are holding certain positions in the government.
The PML-N, a major contender in the Senate polls, is however keeping an eye on the disgruntled PTI MPAs in the hope that their votes will not go to the PTI, if not polled for it in the wake of Open Senate Voting Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 2021.
The PTI MPAs annoyed over the cold shoulder given by the Punjab government during the last two-and-a-half years believe that the party’s apathy towards them is growing. They have plans not to support their party in the Senate elections and believe, “when our intent is to ditch, there will be many ways to execute this plan quite safely”.
After conversation with different disgruntled PTI MPAs, it has been inferred that they have made up their mind to give a tough time to their party and are waiting for the announcement of Senate election schedule – expected within a week.
The annoyed MPAs have already listed two demands and two reactions in case their demands are not met. They demand that Prime Minister Imran Khan should personally listen to their grievances with regard to the incapability of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar as under his leadership, the level of corruption and lawlessness have increased, while the quality of development works and life of the people got poorer. The group of MPAs also demands that one of their members be offered Senate election ticket.
The chief minister’s close aides, however, say Prime Minister Imran Khan considers such demands as blackmailing and add that the PM would never go to pacify his party MPAs. Since the PTI parliamentary party led by PM Khan has already approved Rs500 million grant to every MNA and MPA, they suggest that the disgruntled elements should mend their ways. They say the PM would only snub such elements as he did earlier at chief minister’s secretariat.
The rebellious MPAs have instead plan to launch one of their members as independent Senate candidate to avoid the charge of floor-crossing and give a tough time to their own party. “In case, we will not be able to get our candidate fielded in Senate elections, the whole group will not go for voting in the all- important elections and may also go for resigning from their party membership,” a group member told this reporter.
When asked if the PTI leadership will be able to push them to be available and vote for the selected party candidates, a disgruntled MPA’s response corroborated his another group fellow’s comment that intent to ditch will find many ways. “All group members will then go to poll their votes and stamp two candidates instead of one leading to cancellation of our votes offering no impetus to the party”.
Besides revealing his group’s plan, the MPA believes that the Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 will also be challenged so there are bleak chances that Senate elections be held through open-vote.
Chief Whip in Punjab Assembly Syed Abbas Ali Shah, however, says the party is getting ready to go for Senate polls and all MPAs of the ruling party and allied parties are in line. He says the chief minister is meeting all party MPAs and assuring them of his full support in resolution of problems besides launching development projects in their respective constituencies.
Mr Shah asserts that it will be good if Senate elections be held through “show of hands” as per prime minister’s vision. Otherwise, he says, “The ruling party is working on developing `voting strategies’ including making groups of 47 MPAs each with a leader assigned the duty to get his group’s complete votes polled for an identified party candidate”.
Mr Shah says the ruling party has a great experience of successfully sailing through the Senate polls as it had won a seat for its candidate Dr Shahzad Waseem in October 2018 and two seats for Waleed Iqbal and Seemi Ezdi in November 2018 after coming into power. The PTI had also sprung a surprise, when it got party’s candidate Chaudhry Sarwar (now Punjab governor) elected to Senate in March 2018 with a majority first priority vote despite being short of the required number – even before the party had reached the power corridors.
Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2021