LAHORE - Given the political situation in Punjab, party-based local government elections seem benefiting the opposition parties more than that to the ruling one.

Law has been framed to conduct party-based LG polls, however, lack of will is quite evident on the part of PML-N to put the elections on that line although the party had promised party-based LG polls in its manifesto for the general elections 2013. It was the court intervention which forced the government to reverse the earlier decision when the judiciary had not come into picture without loud voices raised by the Opposition for party-based elections last year.

It is a bizarre feature about the LB polls that their conduct has been a top most priority when a military regime is in place while an elected political government has always been dragging its feet on the same since inception of the Constitution in 1973 which necessitates election at this basic level under all circumstances.

The Constitution envisions the LB polls as a fundamental democratic step which enables a common man to have a forum at his doorstep to get his problems and grievances redressed, as it is in vogue in every civilized state on the globe. The elected governments loathes holding the LB polls for the reason they challenge the power position of the rulers and they do not like to share authorities with a subordinate forum but to use the same for their own and political benefits. As such the government loves to fill in the LB vacuum through bureaucratic machinery which acts partner of the rulers in fiscal and power misuse side by side retaining a superior authority over the LBs. The non-holding of LB polls also keeps the party legislators cheered up through the distribution of development funds which otherwise is the prerogative of the LB representatives.

The past shows that if at all any government tended to hold LB polls, its preference has been holding it on non-party basis, for, such elections leave a lot of room for the ruling clique to manipulate the situation in its favour by winning over loyalties of the local winners through greed and pressure. Despite the non-party option, hardly any government in past tried to go for LB polls considering it a big risk for its power base.

However, now things appear different from the past as the Supreme Court, after testing its patience for five long years on LB election, has put its food down to see the LB polls in Punjab on September 20, a date which Election Commission has also accepted on the condition of getting two state-of-the art printing machines available to it to print 500million ballot papers for Punjab only.

Election in Punjab has to be held on political basis yet they are going to take place on non-party basis in 53 cantonment boards of the country. A petition to see the party-based polls in the boards too, is being adjudicated upon by the court and if the same is accepted, the involvement of political parties in the LB polls of the boards will surely set the ball rolling for them to assess their worth and organize for the September 20 large-scale polls in Punjab.

Sources close to the PML-N say that at the party level a total silence prevails about the LB polls as the party leadership has kept the same far behind its priorities after dealing the current terror, energy and other problems. Believably any bolt from the blue may come in to either take the LB polls beyond the set date or postpone indefinitely, they add while expressing wish being harboured by a section in the party.

On the other hand, the PTI, the PPP, JI, and even PAT have given the call to workers to get ready for the LB polls. Notwithstanding the fact that recently surfaced party election-related dispute has bit slowed down the process for the time being, the over-enthusiastic PTI has started searching for the suitable LB candidates. It may be noted that the PTI government in Khyber PK has announced to hold polls on May 30 next.

From the observers’ point of view, given the situation when a sharp division of political supporters is there with entry of new players in the field, the LB polls can tilt the balance of power in the elections. If situation remains normal and the LB polls take place on due date, then their four-year tenure will pass through the term of the sitting government. For the Opposition parties, it will be a good opportunity for better organization, increase following as well as put up strong voice against the official policies. If no traditional political animosity creeps in the affairs to deny rights of the opposition parties on public funds, a proper use of development funds by them at the local level, will also build their image and win hearts of the people.

In the current scenario when the PTI is hitting hard at the government for the alleged election rigging and is threatening to come again to the streets if probe commission was not set up for the election audit, LB constituencies in Punjab may put a new life to its demands if not now then after September 20. At the same time, observers say, the situation may also turn to advantage of the government if the PTI counted its chickens before they are hatched and enhanced pressure on the government for the acceptance of demands which now range from setting up of the judicial commission to early general elections in the year instant.