The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) managed to increase its vote bank in NA-133 by-polls held on Sunday despite an extremely low turnout.
As per the election results, PML-N candidate Shiasta Pervaiz Malik bagged 46,811 votes, while Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidate Chaudhry Aslam Gill got 32,313 votes.
The turnout remained 18.5 percent only, contrary to the turnout observed in the general elections when the same constituency witnessed a huge turnout of 51 percent. PML-N candidate Malik Pervaiz got 89,678 votes in 2018, almost 47 per cent of the total votes cast at that time. This time around, the widow of Malik Pervaiz got 57 per cent of the total votes cast – around 81,000.
The figures obtained by this scribe show that there was a 10 percent increase in the vote bank of PML-N in the by-polls. The victory margin of PML-N candidate also increased from 12,000 votes in 2018 to 14,000 votes in the recent by-election. The constituency has 440,485 registered voters, but only 81,000 cast their votes in the by-polls.
The PPP is also celebrating a drastic increase in its vote bank, as its candidate Chaudhry Aslam Gill bagged six times more votes than he got in 2018. His vote bank increased from 3 percent to 40 per cent. It is worth mentioning here that the PTI candidate grabbed 40 percent of the votes in 2018 and it is highly likely that a large chunk of this vote bank shifted towards the PPP in the absence of a PTI candidate in the by-polls. The PTI couldn’t become part of the election race this time as the nomination papers of its nominee, Jamshed Cheema, had a ‘technical fault’.
The NA-133 seat was clinched by Malik Pervaiz in 2018 by grabbing 89,678 votes, while his main rival Ijaz Chaudhry of PTI could get 77,231 votes. The PPP’s Chaudhry Aslam Gill was at fourth with only 5,585 votes in 2018, while the TLP candidate got 13,235 votes.
The leadership of PPP, including Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari, are terming the by-polls as the turning point for the PPP in Punjab, as they said that it was just the start of the party’s revival in the province.
According to some insiders, the PPP had set the target of getting 40,000 votes in the by-polls and therefore senior cabinet members of Sindh government were also present in Lahore to monitor the election campaign of Aslam Gill. The PML-N accused the PPP of giving away cash to buy votes and claimed that the party had bought 30,000 votes in NA-133 to give an impression that the PPP was back in the province.
“It is a wrong impression that NA-133 marks the revival of PPP in Punjab as Aslam Gill didn’t get the vote of his party only. He got all the anti-PML-N vote, including that of PTI, PAT and MWM,” said MPA Samiullah Khan of PML-N. Samiullah, who is an elected MPA from Lahore, told Minute Mirror that the NA-133 by-election was a gain for the PML-N as “our vote bank increased by 10 per cent despite an extremely low turnout”.
Giving the reason for the low turnout, he said that the absence of the PTI from the election arena couldn’t make a befitting Election Day environment in the constituency. “Our real contest will be with the PTI, not the PPP, in the elections in Punjab,” he said.