LAHORE - The election candidates are worried over spending on their campaigns as an indefinite delay in the conduct of local government elections in Punjab province is on the cards.

The electoral test was scheduled for January 30, but it is by no means likely on that day, given the fact that a clear-cut statement to this effect has been made by Minister for Law and Local Government Rana Sanaullah himself last week.

Till the last month, both the government and the election commission were seeking extra time, up to the month of March, for the conduct of LG polls. They contended that more time was needed for printing of ballots and to cater to other polls-related paraphernalia.

But after the Lahore High Court verdict, it appears as if Punjab will not go to polls even in the month of March.

The high court, in its decision last week, did not make any observation about postponement of the LG elections, but it did express the desire for elections on the due date. However, the court order for LG polls on January 30 appears to be conflicting with the operative part of the decision, wherein it called for fresh delimitations through the election commission in Punjab which may not be done by that time.  For implementation of the court order, the Punjab government would need to bring drastic amendments to the Local Government Act, 2013. But the law minister says at least four months’ time is required following which fresh constituencies at the level of union councils, wards, etc, could be created.

The minister, on an occasion, even hinted at the possibility of LG elections taking place after a year or one and a half year when a fresh delimitation of constituencies would start on the basis of demographical strength of every union council, etc, as determined from a population census which has been pending since 1998, in violation of the constitutional demand of holding the same after every 10 years.  An interesting feature of the matter will be the filing of nominations by nearly 2,04,899 candidates, still clueless of the exact time of the electoral test.

The situation has somewhat dampened the hopes of the candidates from every party, particularly those who had to be awarded tickets from the ruling PML-N. They are much disappointed over the delay because they were hopeful of being perched in the office of mayor, deputy mayor, chairman and vice-chairman at different tiers of the local bodies system. But their hopes have been dashed to the ground. Equally dismayed are the candidates from PTI and PPP as they had started their campaign with a tremendous pomp. In this rigid chilly condition in the province, the candidates have already spent much on their supporters and voters, in addition to paying immensely for posters, billboards, flexes, banners and pamphlets, etc.

An informal survey of Lahore city found many election candidates grumbling that they and their supporters had spent millions on their election campaign but the LG elections were not in sight.

The service of tea, meals and other winter items at the election offices had become a routine to woo the voter. To put it in a nutshell, the chance of LG polls on January 30 has dampened at a time when electioneering was picking up.

When a question was put to the law minister in his media interaction last week, he expressed no mood of compensating the candidates or coming to their help in any manner. He however urged the court to take note of the very matter. After declining to challenge the LHC order by the provincial government before the Supreme Court, the minister rolled the ball in the election commission’s court. The candidates have been left in lurch after spending money so profusely on their election campaigns.