LAHORE: The newly-appointed PPP Punjab president, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, is not dismayed at his party’s poor performance in the recently-concluded Cantonment Board elections in Punjab, where the party failed to bag even a single seat. The former prime minister, who has taken upon himself to form the government of the party in the province in the next elections, tells Bol News that he is not distracted by the local government election results.
“Just wait and see; I’m not distracted by these results,” he says.
The Cantonment Board election results have hardly shocked or surprised anyone in the country.
But regardless of the present situation where the Peoples Party has low popularity graph in the province, it must be mentioned here that even when the party had a forceful presence in Punjab back in the 1990s and 2000s, the Cantonments would remain a no-go area for the PPP and the party also never tried to break the barriers, says Mubasher Bukhari, a political commentator.
“Well, the party may surprise Punjab in the general elections,” he says with a smile.
The party is waking up in Punjab as both Ashraf and PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have adopted a two-pronged strategy to mobilise the party, which has undergone massive popularity swings in the province during the last two decades.
Under the strategy, Raja Pervez would concentrate on the party cadres in hibernation in Central Punjab whereas Bilawal would concentrate on South Punjab.
Mission Bilawal Bhutto
Kasim Gilani, the son of ex-prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, remained with Bilawal Bhutto during his visit to South Punjab in the first week of September.
“The battlefield South Punjab will be all PPP’s as the people have realized that the PPP is their representative party,” Kasim tells Bol News.
Bilawal stayed in the Seraiki areas for five days and won over several electable candidates for the PPP. “These are the electable candidates who lost the previous elections. But by all electoral science formulas, they will win the next elections,” says Mehr Irshad Sial, a PPP MNA from Muzaffargarh.
He said the next election will see Muzaffargarh once again a mini-Larkana and the party would repeat the 2008 history.
In the 2008 elections, the PPP won all five MNA and four MPA seats. Now, the district has six MNA seats, and of them, the PPP won three NA seats in the 2018 elections.
“In 2018, we fought elections in very uncertain conditions as it was in the air that the PTI would form the next government and despite such odds, we won three seats. Next time, we will sweep all the six seats,” he said.
Former foreign minister and PPP MNA on reserved seat Hina Rabbani Khar will also contest a general seat from the district on the PPP ticket.
The PPP gained strong footing in Dera Ghazi Khan where formidable Khosas formally joined the party. Similarly, Mazaris from Rajanpur may join the party in the election year. He won over Khwaja Attaullah Taunsvi from Taunsa, Bahadur Khan Sehar from Layyah, Mian Mazhar Abbas from Multan and several others.
More people are likely to join the election years, and the party expects 20 seats from South Punjab.
Mission Raja Pervez Ashraf
Raja has started his new journey with much enthusiasm.
“It’s my mission now to form the PPP government in Punjab and no one will be able to check the rise of the party in the province,” he thundered at a party workers meeting in Lahore.
Raja started his journey by meeting the party cadres like Qasim Zia, Aitzaz Ahsan, Misbahur Rehman and so on in the Lahore city.
He says he would run the party chapter in consultation with the workers.
His main targets are those electable candidates from rural central Punjab who have left the party in recent years.
Sources say that Nadeem Afzal Chan and several others would soon make a comeback to their party.
Political analysts say that the party may be far from making a government in Punjab but it may become a powerful player in the coming elections. The party is gaining roots, this is the fact which has been admitted by PPP adversaries like Chaudhry Nisar and Khwaja Asif.
Can PPP make a comeback in Punjab?
Speaking to Bol News, Political Analyst and Journalist Ahsan Raza was of the opinion that it is yes and no.
“In 2008, the PPP bagged 20 NA seats and 85 MPA seats from Punjab. In the ensuing elections of 2013 and 2018, it failed to touch the double digit,” he recalled.
For Raza, the PPP showed a slump due to its reconciliation and friendly opposition to PML-N and PTI.
“PPP can gain ground in Punjab in the coming elections, especially in south Punjab where electable candidates work,” he maintained.
Breakaway factions from the PTI and PML-N would join the party as people don’t see the future of both parties in the next setup.
Moreover, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has steered the party out of crises and has been leading from the front with wise moves and formidable opposition.
“His (Bilawal’s) opponents have been committing blunder after blunder. His main stronghold will be south Punjab whereas he will get good seats from rural areas of northern and central Punjab too,” Raza concluded.
Only time will tell if the party’s leadership is sound enough to win Punjab over once again.