Friday Apr 30, 2021
In a surprising turn of events on Thursday, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won the by-polls in Karachi’s NA-249, a multi-ethnic constituency comprising areas of Baldia Town, where the party had performed poorly in the past general and local government polls.
For many analysts and politicians in the constituency, it is hard to comprehend how the PPP could pull out a win, considering that it ranked sixth, by securing over 7,000 votes in the 2018 general polls, but came out first on Thursday with 16,156 votes.
One reason is that the PPP took the by-polls in NA-249 seriously mainly because the constituency is now part of newly-carved District Kemari. This signals an effort by the ruling party in Sindh to secure a better position in the upcoming local government polls.
In order to ensure a win in the by-election, PPP’s strategy was to woo voters by carrying out local arrangements of resolving civic issues, such as installing water and sewerage lines, and carpeting broken roads.
For example, the PPP gained some 3,000 votes from one Pashtun-populated locality after its Karachi leaders installed water and sewerage pipe lines on demands of local notables ahead of the by-polls.
So support of the provincial government, city and district administration in carrying out small level developments in the constituency helped the PPP to win the NA-249.
Rival political parties, mainly the PML-N, insisted the Election Commission of Pakistan take notice of this, but even that did not stop the development work.
Then, another reason for its victory was that the PPP is one party that constantly remains in election mode. It has recently started to expand its network and electoral influence to Karachi from rural Sindh by gradually taking advantage of the weakening of the MQM, and the new delimitation of constituencies on the basis of the controversial census.
Although the PPP failed to gain significant results in the 2018 general polls from Karachi, gaining successes in the by-polls in the ethnically mixed constituency, such as NA-249, became easy for it by conducting local arrangements and shifting the government machinery entirely towards the constituency.
Thirdly, the counting of ballots that continued till early morning, even when voter turnout was disappointedly very low, raised several questions on the results of the by-polls.
Interestingly, a day before the by-polls, former premier and PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had voiced fears of rigging. He had said that the provincial government had been deploying PPP’s favourite polling staff at specific polling stations.