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Diplomatic voters, hardened candidates

Diplomatic voters, hardened candidates

LAHORE: Electioneering for the first phase of the 2015 local government polls in the city is gaining momentum with the setting up of campaign offices by the candidates fielded by major political parties in a number of union councils (UCs), besides the independent ones.

The campaign offices start drawing youth around sunset who start playing songs of their respective parties. These offices remain open till late night and the `supporters’ of the candidates continue enjoying tea, cold drinks and even dinner there.

In majority of the total 274 UCs of Lahore, candidates have formally started canvassing by going door to door and holding corner meetings.

The voters, on the other hand are really confused and are mostly giving “green signal” to everyone.

“How I can refuse a candidate at this stage when either I personally know him or through a neighbor or friend? We all are saying ‘yes’ to all candidates approaching us repeatedly,” says Malik Muhammad Din, a voter o Gosha-i-Ahbab (Multan Road).

Ikram, a voter of Marghazar Colony, said he had made false promises with all candidates who either visited him at home or intercepted him in the area market. “It is better to be diplomatic at this stage,” he says, apprehensive of wrath of any influential candidate who might win despite his opposition.

The local polls have not only engaged the candidates and voters in various activities but also made the publicity outlets’ owners very busy.

“We have not even time to respond to telephone calls of our family members, as we are busy round the clock in preparing banners, flexes, billboards, handbills, pamphlets and stickers of candidates contesting elections,” Umar a vendor of Multan road said.

He said mostly he was demanding payments in advance, as the “political people” were usually in the habit of either delaying or denying bills after elections.

Voters in many UCs have joined hands to give the candidates a tough time.

Whenever a candidate visits a locality less known to him, he is confronted by demands like construction of the street or road, laying or upgrading the water supply and sewerage system.

“We can only make promises as we do not have any funds to start work right now,” Pervaiz Iqbal Jutt, a PML-N candidate for chairman slot of UC 109 said.

The candidates including Mailk Tariq Bara (PTI) and Mailk Tariq Zulifqar Bara (Independent) also talked about facing a similar situation while campaigning door to door or at corner meetings.

“We are asking such voters to question the PML-N candidates, as their party has been in power for the last 30 years or so,” said the independent Bara.

While most candidates of two major parties – the PML-N and the PTI – have started spending lavishly on their electioneering, the PPP aspirants are trying hard to “warn the voters of the consequences of the politics involving money.”

“In an election where money matters, how a lower middle-class person like me can attract voters? Will a wealthy person take care of the downtrodden when he is not even aware of their issues? I wonder where the election commission is?” argues Malik Amjad Awan, a PPP candidate.

Awan said he was just trying to convince people to vote the honest, pro-poor and working-class candidates instead of being trapped again by those who kept depriving them of their basic civic needs and rights in the past.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2015

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