LAHORE – In a stark contrast of words and actions, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Sunday announced incentives for the party’s Punjab politicians but at the same time said the leadership won’t try to lure back those who have made up their mind to say good bye to the PPP.

Dissensions within the party have come out in the open and around one dozen sitting PPP members of Punjab Assembly have already made their intentions of leaving the party clear while an equal number are weighing their options ahead of the upcoming general elections.

The main purpose of Sunday’s meeting of the prime minister with party legislators at the Governor House was to win over the angry politicians and to keep others within the party folds amid reports that many were waiting in the wings to join other parties.

But it was quite worrisome for the leadership when over 30 legislators, including the angry ones, did not turn up on different pretexts. The PPP has 107 members in Punjab Assembly, but only 75 came to the meeting. Among the absentees was Azma Zahid Bokhari, an MPA from Lahore.

Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa, Federal Ministers, Khurshid Shah, Qamar Zaman Kaira and Manzoor Wattoo were present at the meeting.

Prime Minister Raja in his address said that the party would not make any effort to woo back the estranged party men and those who have decided to quit the PPP were never sincere with the party. “They have proved that they are opportunists”, he added.

Giving his personal example, Raja said that he never complained if he was not taken care of by the party on some occasions. “Loyalty demands that one should remain with the party through thick and thin”, he said.

From what the prime minister said in his speech on the occasion, it was quite clear that party would now focus on the remaining members by giving them incentives in terms of more development funds and quota of jobs in federal departments.

But when the party men grumbled about insufficient funds and jobs, the prime minister formed a committee comprising senior party leaders to meet parliamentarians’ demand for quota of jobs. Federal ministers Khurshid Shah, Qamar Zaman Kaira and Mian Manzoor Wattoo and Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz have been taken in the committee.

Raja Pervaiz also announced Rs30 million additional funds for each MPA for development schemes. But women legislators elected on reserved seats and the senators would not be getting any funds, he made it clear.

When the issue of defections came under discussion, party legislators held Raja Riaz and Manzoor Wattoo responsible for this. “If the top leadership did not pay heed to the growing discontentment among party ranks and file, many more may defect to other parties,” they warned.  Some also complained about non-cooperative attitude of party MNAs with them.

The prime minister, who is also the secretary general of PPP (Parliamentarians), castigated the PML-N leadership for causing defections in his party though he did not name any body. “Those who have started the game of horse-trading in Punjab must know that they would not be able to break the PPP,” he remarked, adding those who claim to be champions of democracy were infact working against the democracy.

He said many politicians from other parties were in contact with the party leadership, but PPP did not believe in using turncoats to gain power. Raja said that coming into power had never been the ultimate objective of the PPP, which, he said, never indulged in power politics.