Usually by elections are won by Government in power, but this time it did not happened. PTI lost 2 National Assembly seats out of 4, which was won by Imran Khan in general elections. First seat was NA (131) Lahore. This seat was won by Imran Khan by 680 votes in general elections. But this time Khawaja Saad Rafique defeated Hamayun Akhtar Khan by almost 10000 votes. Other seat was of Bannu and MMA’S Zahid Akram Durani won the seat this time. In Punjab assembly PTI lost from Jhelum and DG Khan. Major setback for PTI was to loose seats for KPK, from which they won by 2/3 majority in general elections. There are many factors behind this performance of PTI in By-elections.
One factor is that symbolic things like selling of cars, buffaloes and opening of Governor House or changing PM house into university did not attract voters. Common people have nothing to do with this. Main problem of common people is inflation, which has now increased due to increase in dollar price. Stock market is also down and Government has finally decided to go to IMF for 7-8 billion dollars bailout package. IMF has also put tough conditions for bailout package, which includes devaluation of rupee and removal of subsidies. Due to bad economic situation 1 million jobs and 50 lac houses are also at stake.
Even if there was PML (N) Government, going to IMF was inevitable. But PTI talked for change and said we will not go to IMF. I think now PTI is trapped in its own popular rhetoric which it portrayed before elections. People had high expectations from PTI and voted for change in general elections. But in by elections people did not see that change and moved towards PML (N) and other parties. PML (N) also played smartly in by elections and exploited the rhetoric of PTI and used it against them. In terms of popular vote PML (N) was ahead of PTI, got 4 lac 75 thousand while PTI got 4 lac 59 thousand.
But still it is too early to judge the performance of any government in 50 days. But now PTI should behave like a party which is in power and have government in center, Punjab and KPK. It seems that they are still in opposition mood. For example the issue of Saudi Arabia’s inclusion in CPEC. Contradictory statements of Ministers confuse voters. Now confusion within Government ranks should end.
One more major reason of bad performance of PTI is the lack of interest of leadership especially in the case of Punjab. According to analysts Aleem Khan is not happy with his position in party and has reservations. Moreover Jahngeer Tareen is disqualified for life. The absence of these big names has affected and will affect party performance. Accountability is going on, but it should be across the board. If there is selective accountability then it will have severe consequences. Opposition parties will capitalize on the narrative of selective accountability and will try to gain sympathy from voters. Still government has time and one could hope that it will learn from its mistakes.