Days before local body elections, PML-N candidates, flanked by newly appointed Minister Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, announced 500 electricity connections to the residents of France Colony. These people have been living without electricity for the last two years. Naturally, the sudden interest of the PML-N is suspect.

The residents were thrilled with the announcement of course. Politics has just become about who wins, not why. Egos clash, with no measures taken for the protection of the constituencies. However, in this case at least a section of the population is getting some benefit, rigging or not. While this is not ideal, we would like to see parties and politician compete for people’s vote- giving them benefits is part of that competition. It is better than buying votes with cash, and it is better than rigging at the polls. The PML-N is crossing lines, it always does, the Kissan Package was no exception. But at least these surprise benefits means that voters do count, and that they have to be cajoled and convinced, even by the ruling party. A supportive vote is not a foregone conclusion and the individual vote is of value. This is itself something to be grateful for, as it means that at the poll, behind the screen, the voter is king.

The PML-N has dangled a carrot in front of people to win, and the least it can do is follow up on this promise and actually provide electricity to the community. The community is poor, and most cannot pay for electricity. There are many slums in the capital where thousands of lower middle class income group people live in miserable conditions. Many have no drinking water, electricity, gas, sewage systems or regular garbage collection. The PML-N is hardly a benevolent patron. Additionally, the opposition politician has claimed that police is threatening to dislocate the slum residents if they don’t vote for the ruling party.

Rigging concerns aside, the PML-N should realize this is actually what they needed to do: give people electricity. As the incumbent, they have the power and means to do so and should have done this much sooner so as to increase the circumference of its voting base. Other parties, especially the PTI, have never had this opportunity. The problem is bad policy. Energy policy has been a total disaster since 2013, with Nandipur not showing any signs of life, and LNG import being so expensive. This should have been the first order of business in 2013.