A right step to the left?

 

Untiring efforts of Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) leadership – the Zardari group to be specific – made decades old loyal voters abandon the party in general elections of 2013. For the first time since 1980s, these Bhutto fans and voters of the only leftist mainstream political party in Pakistan were made to choose between two rights; Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) and Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI). A major chunk apparently went to PTI but PMLN did bag its fair share as well.

PPP’s recession has however created a vacuum in the liberal left hemisphere of Pakistan’s political scenario currently dominated by two conservative rightist parties. It is thus easier to launch a new party with a liberal agenda than competing with the already congested right.

As part of a political strategy for the next general elections, any potential new political party and all existing political parties should be eyeing the abandoned leftist voters who have not yet settled in their new voting trends.

Acknowledgment and appreciation of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoi’s work before it fetched her a second Oscar, giving the go ahead for Mumtaz Qadri’s execution, legislation of a now controversial bill for protection of women against violence, seem to be an appeal to the liberal Pakistan; A right step to the left by a rightist conservative party?

These measures may have produced the desired results as far as winning a few liberal hearts is concerned, but are they simultaneously showing the door to PMLN’s religious conservative voters? Can PMLN afford that? and is it a calculated move?

In the bi-polar society that we now are, a political party cannot expect to please voters both on the right and left. Our politics is not a plain, it is a pyramid, there is no staying in the centre. Is PMLN willing to let a chunk of its voters slide to its only apparent rival; PTI?

Until the next census, and in all probability even after that, Punjab will weigh the heaviest in Parliament. PMLN, at the moment leads PTI in Punjab as far as loyalty of the voters is concerned. Surprisingly, a small portion of those voters belong to the religious groups or conservatives. A portion already being shared with PTI since 2013. PTI Chairman does carry a baggage; his statements calling for negotiations with the Taliban and his early opposition to an operation against terrorists did provoke the liberals. PLMN has, after the events of February 2016, gained considerable ground with the leftist voters.

PMLN was comfortable being the only rightist political party for the last three decades competing with the only leftist PPP. With the rise of PTI and fall of PPP, does it now eye being the only leftist party competing with the only rightist PTI?

The strategy seems to maintain the party’s own vote bank, let PTI take as much of the conservative vote as it wants, and occupy the abandoned leftist territory. We will have to wait till the next general elections to know for sure, but if this is the strategy, it sure seems like a smart one.

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