LAHORE - After achieving a thumping victory in the May 2103 general election, the ruling PML-N faced ups and downs in its vote-bank in the subsequently held by-elections although the party won almost all seats it had vacated on various grounds.

In some constituencies where the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz regained seats in by-elections, the rival PTI got a big gain in its vote bank to narrow down the victory margin of the ruling party; however on some others the same party faced a crushing defeat at the hand of the N-candidates. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf which sounded adding to its vote-bank, suffered a vote loss in the by-polls after 2014 sit-in yet it was again showing a comeback.

The PML-N could not substantially add to its voters in the by-polls despite a general perception about the ruling party that the state machinery comes to the aid of its candidates to let them perform better. In the by-polls, smaller parties tend to merge their vote into that of the main parties to draw a strong one-on-one fight in the by-polls. On this stand-point the votes gained by the PML-N candidates in the by-elections failed to impress.

After the May 2013 election, the PML-N recaptured all the seats vacated by its legislators on being elected on more than one seats in the general elections. The PML-N retained its 18 of the 39 NA and PA seats in all over the country.

The victory margin of the ruling party in the by elections on such seats in proportionate to the turn-out, was almost the same on some as that of the general election yet it declined on others to a great surprise.

The depletion in the vote-bank of the PML-N on such seats became more pronounced when the rival party, PTI, raised its tally although without winning the seat. This reflects the public mood towards the ruling party and encouragement to the rival party to bridge the gap with little bit of more effort.

The most glaring example is the important by-election in NA-122 Lahore in October last year. In this contest a high profile candidate of the PML-N, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, could win the election only with the margin of 2,400 votes as against 8,851-vote margin which Sadiq got against the robust PTI candidate, Imran Khan, in May 2013 polls.

Reports say the government in order to secure this victory spent heavily on this election against the PTI minnow Abdul Aleem Khan, who also did not lag behind the rival in spending. The PML-N lost the PP-147 Lahore where the PTI candidate captured the PML-N seat securing 31,964 vote. In the general election, the PML-N candidate got 36,781 votes, which shrunk to 28402 in the by-polls.

The recently held by-polls in Burewala and Jehlum were another example of the depleting vote-bank of the ruling party. In PP-232 Burewala, PML-N candidate Ch Yousaf Kaselyia defeated rival PTI candidate Ayesha Nazir Jutt with the margin of only 1,056 votes.

Kaselyia had won the general election as independent candidate obtaining 50260 votes while the then PML-N candidate stood second with 43665 votes, and the PTI’s got just 2284 votes. In the August 31 last by-election, Kaselyia as N-League candidate secured 51,323 votes while Ayesha Nazir Jutt of PTI remained short of him just by 1,056 votes. Jutt accused the ruling party candidate of committing massive rigging and manipulations.

Considering the fact the Kaselyia should have added the PML-N vote to his personal votes to achieve a huge lead against his rival, this time round, we see the PTI taking a big leap of about 48,000 votes in this constituency, that indeed counts for an improvement in the strength of this party either from the PML-N votes or that personal of Kaselyia.

In NA-63 Jehlum by-polls, PML-N candidate Matloob Mahdi Khan got 81,612 votes and defeated PTI’s Fawad Chaudhary who got 73,919 votes. In the general election, the PML-N candidate in this constituency secured 116013 votes and the PTI’s 42805, which was about two times less.

In the by-polls the PML-N candidate got 34,401 less votes from the last polls while the PTI candidate got 31,114 more from the past.

This picture is well illustrated from the by-election on the National Assembly seats.

In the by-polls of NA-69 Khushab, held in January 2014, the PML-N candidate got 92,481 when its candidate Sumera Malik had obtained 118,108 votes in the general elections. In the same election the PTI candidate secured 72,100 votes as against 79,805 votes in the previous polls.

General elections in NA-108 Mandi Bahuddin were won by an independent candidate, Ijaz Ahmad Ch, obtaining 84,008 votes. The PML-N got 73,679 votes and the PTI 25,359. In the by-election Ijaz did not take part and the seat was won by PML-N obtaining 75,402 votes, and the PTI secured 38,987 votes.

The PML-N improved votes by 1,723 while the PTI added 13,665 to its previous bank when the potential Ijaz was not in the field.

In the crucial by-election of NA-154 Lodhra the PTI’s Jahangir Khan Tareen, defeated the PML-N candidate, Siddique Baloch who had won this seat in the general election. Tareen secured 138,573 votes; 62,759 more from the general polls, while his rival secured 99,312 votes which were 13,268 more from what he secured in the last polls.

NA-129 Lahore seat was vacated by Mian Nawaz Sharif who had won it in the general polls securing 93,436 votes. The party retained the seat in the by-polls but suffered the vote loss of 48,542 votes as the party candidate could get only 44,894 votes. The PTI did not field the candidate in the general polls but fielded in the by-election who could get 26,071 in the political hub of the ruling party.

In the by-polls of NA-103 Hafizabad, PML-N won securing 78,113 votes after it lost the general polls to an independent candidate standing at 75600 votes. PTI lost by-polls but it markedly improved its tally from 4,450 of the general elections to 62,622 in the by-elections.

In an interesting NA-149 Multan by-election, PTI-supported candidate Amir Dogar won the election obtaining 52,321 votes leaving the potential candidate Makhdoom Javed Hashmi at 38,391 who earlier had won the seat as PTI candidate getting 83,569 votes. Hashmi parted ways with PTI and was supported by ruling PML-N in the by-election.

It was the by-election of NA-19 Haripur where PML-N retained the seat improving its previous tally. Its candidate had received 117,589 votes in the general polls which swelled to 137,227 in the by-polls while rival PTI had a downslide from 117,045 to 90,702.

The NA-68 Sargodha seat was vacated by Nawaz Sharif after he won it getting 140,546 votes. The PML-N candidate in the by-polls could get only 67888 votes; 72,658 less than the past. The vote of the PTI candidate also reduced from 45,463 to 40,169.

NA-153 Multan, where PML-N had PPP its main rival, gave a good account of itself. In general polls the N-League had won the seat obtaining 94,298 votes leaving the PPP candidate, Rana Qasim Noon at 88,553. In the by-polls Rana Qasim contested for PML-N and raised its strength to 109,499 votes.

Again in NA-137 Nankana by election, PML-N made a mark by securing 80,241 votes as against 61,291 votes in the general election. Here the party faced an independent candidate Ijaz Shah whose votes came down to 41,944 in the by-election from 55,987 of the general election.

PML-N inflicted a big blow on PTI in NA-71 Mianwali by polls when it captured the seats which PTI chairman Imran Khan had won earning 132,283 votes. In the by-polls, the ruling party got 95,210 votes leaving PTI with 76,684 votes. Here the N-League got a gain of 22351 from the last election.