LAHORE - As the PPP is bracing for leadership change in Punjab and other provinces, this has given rise to an internal debate whether it should adopt an urban-centric approach or focus on the rural constituencies.

It has been learnt that some party leaders have urged the top leadership to address this basic question first before selection of a new team especially in Punjab where the party is facing a tough challenge from the ruling PML-N and the PTI. Over the years, both these parties have mainly relied on their urban base in Punjab to secure victory in any election.

They argue that once this issue is settled, the new provincial leaders could be selected predominantly either from the urban or rural areas depending on their political clout. If the party decides to do urban politics, its leadership would mostly come from the cities. Likewise, if the rural politics is to be made the focus of party policy, the leadership would predominantly be from rural Punjab.

It may be noted that PPP's reorganisation drive is part of party's revival particularly in the biggest province where it is almost non-existent at least to the extent of its nominal representation in the National Assembly and the Punjab legislature.

It has been further learnt that a dominant section in the PPP is advising the leadership to reach out to the urban middle class and the lower middle class with a new programme to address their problems. The proponents of this view believe that there is growing discontent in the urban population about lack of job opportunities and their small businesses which are not flourishing as per their expectations.

Expensive education and health care is another issue in the major cities which the party could exploit in its favour in the next elections, they state in support of their argument.

On the other hand, some party men think that PPP should focus more on the rural electorate alongside the urban areas by highlighting the issues facing the farmers community.

In the recent past, the PPP did this experience and the people saw farmers coming out on roads to press for their demands. But the government successfully tackled this PPP-led farmers movement which failed to make any considerable impact on the local government elections held last year.

The PML-N emerged victorious yet again this time even with thumbing majority.    

Those pleading for an urban-centric approach are in favour of picking up new leaders mostly from the urban centres. They argue that majority of the party activists live in cities and play key role in any movement against the sitting government. All big movements in the past started from cities which also remain the centre of political activities in all times, they stated.

Another argument in support of their thesis is that most successful Punjab Presidents in the past were taken from the cities.

Looking back at the history of PPP nominations in Punjab, Sheikh Muhammad Rashid (1968-1972) was the first Punjab President having clout in the urban centres. Similarly, Sheikh Rafique Ahmad (1977-1985), Jehangir Badr (1985-1988), Rana Shaukat Mahmood (1988-1989), Fakhar Zaman (1989-1991), Jehangir Badr (1991-1995- second term), Mushtaq Awan (1995-1997), Qasim Zia 2001-2006 and Rana Aftab (2009-2011) had also their support base in the urban Punjab.

The rest of Punjab presidents-Mian Muhammad Afzal Wattoo (1972-1974), Malik Miraj Khalid (1974-1977), Rao Sikander Iqbal (1997-2001), Shah Mehmood Qureshi (2006-2008), Imtiaz Safdar Warriach (2011-12) and Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo (2012-April, 2016) represented the rural constituencies.

In comparative terms, the party did not perform well under the leadership of provincial Presidents with rural background, the PPP men supporting an urban-centric approach contend.