Monday, February 05, 2024
Elections in Pakistan are mostly influenced by voters’ emotions. The 2024 general elections see voters fuelled with a drive for revenge. This shows that our voting patterns lack objective reasoning regardless of our education and the circle we move in.
The irony is that voters stuck in the said pattern blame "biryani politics" — supporters attend parties’ jalsas to eat a plate of biryani for free. If "woke people" can opt for a revenge vote, how can the same "woke lot" blame the biryani vote?
Plus, there are no biryani votes in reality. These food plates just represent two things about Pakistanis: the socio-economic plight of the majority and our love for food. Therefore, the argument against biryani votes is not only derogatory but also exposes the fault lines in our woke culture, which is now calling for a revenge vote.
While the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) can tap into the revenge vote from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has opted for a different communication strategy.
The political crisis which is attributed to the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition government has done no significant harm to the PML-N’s loyal vote bank, but it has led to the loss of seasonal votes which seem more influenced by the politics of revenge. The party which is confident about ruling the country should not just bank on loyal votes; extra seasonal votes can eventually strengthen its chances of forming a stable government.
The PTI is mostly banking on the revenge vote; it is not using its past performance to lure people to vote for it or promising any reforms as it did previously. The PTI’s narrative of fighting against the corrupt has become a secondary or supplementary narrative, which complements the revenge narrative.
Though the corruption narrative will not be doing much harm to the PML-N, the revenge narrative can deal a huge blow to the party when coupled with corruption and other supplementary narratives.
Only the PPP has tapped into all the potential soft points so far, but it is not their year yet. The next elections could be its year if, and only if, it successfully manages to let its work in Sindh speak for itself.
Political parties talk about political consciousness (sha’oor), but the entire concept of allotting a unified symbol to all contestants of a political party is absurd. Political parties talk about the awareness and political acumen of teenagers supporting them. However, when it comes to elections, every leader brings a stuffed toy — a bat or an arrow — to ask for votes. If the entire process is dependent on showing a toddler a figure to choose from in an examination hall, then what is the point of electing a representative of our choosing from our constituency?
This centralisation strategy not only kills the purpose of electing separate public representatives but also liberates them from being held accountable. If you are just simply voting for Nawaz Sharif or Imran Khan, you are not voting for yourself — your constituency, and then you should not be allowed to blame your elected representative if s/he does not show up after the elections. This completely ignores what a representative of a particular constituency has delivered or failed to deliver during his/her constitutional tenure.
Political parties need to trust the young lot and give them confidence; political leaders in Pakistan need to start sharing the limelight, which they clearly do not. Statements like “even if we nominate a pole, it will win” should be discouraged. Parties need to stop ridiculing public choices by such remarks and mentality.
We need to establish a party-public connection, which shouldn’t be overly reliant on a symbol or one particular personality.
Leaders and supporters of all political parties have been to jail; there are martyrs in all parties, and workers of all parties have faced hardships that we cannot imagine. But this does not mean that we should vote based on emotions, pity or even revenge. We have done that in the past but let’s be selfish this time.
Let’s vote for ourselves and our country, not for the person who has been in pain previously or someone who is in pain currently. Politics is their profession, and their survival is with this profession — stop feeling bad for the political elite.
Let’s vote for the person you think has delivered on education, somebody who has worked on healthcare, somebody who has delivered on the ease of doing business, and somebody who has worked hard for the country’s economic growth.
Keeping in view the previous track record of political leaders, you need to gauge who would be a better match for future interventions as well. Vote for them!
The writer is a freelance journalist. He has also served as media adviser to the World Bank and Unicef-funded healthcare and tourism related projects in Punjab. He tweets/posts @EAAgop
Originally published in The News