Election 2018 marked the third time in a decade that the PPP has managed to win a large number of seats in the Sindh Assembly. With this winning streak, the PPP is perhaps the only political party in the Subcontinent that has been winning election over the last 50 years.
Since the party was formed in 1967, it has been contesting every election against its local rivals. Most of these rivals have earned tickets from different parties and alliances. Even in the 2018 elections, the PPP’s opponents formed the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) to give the party a tough time. This alliance, which largely comprised landowners, pirs and politicians who were formerly a part of the PPP, was defeated in the polls.
The GDA had similar intentions to the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) that had emerged in 1988 as an alliance against the PPP. Interestingly, both alliances had fielded more or less the same types of candidates who have feudal, pro-establishment mindsets. The only difference between the GDA and the IJI is that the former included Sindhi nationalist parties, which were directly and indirectly part of the alliance.
During local government elections in 2016, the PPP secured a mighty win in all parts of the province, except Karachi, defeating all its opponents on the local level. This compelled anti-PPP groups in Sindh to join hands and form a strong union. As a result, the Grand Democratic Alliance was created.
Members of the alliance began criticising the PPP government for its corrupt practices, bad governance, constant failure to complete development schemes and improper utilisation of the provincial budget. Most importantly, they criticised Asif Ali Zardari and his sister, Faryal Talpur, for Sindh’s woes.
Social media and the print media were used by anti-PPP groups to peddle their narrative before the elections. They criticised the PPP’s style of governance and their election campaign agendas. These tactics were merely an attempt to alter the sentiments of Sindh’s people and defeat the PPP.
In light of this propaganda and its weak position in Punjab, the PPP focused on Sindh and strategically developed an election plan for every district of the province. As a result, the PPP defeated its opponents in many districts.
The PPP persuaded the Shirazis of Thatta, who had won four seats in 2013 election, to quit the PML-N and join its ranks. This helped the PPP win in Thatta. In the same way, the PPP proposed that Arbab Lutfullah should contest elections against his uncle Arbab Ghulam Rahim, who is touted as the political king of Thar. This strategy also worked to the PPP’s advantage as Arbab Lutfullah managed to defeat his uncle by a huge margin.
In five districts of Sindh – Tharparkar, Umerkot, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas and Badin – the PPP provided tickets to Hindu candidates for general seats. Earlier this year, the PPP had also nominated Krishna Kohli for a Senate seat. This move had won the hearts of minority voters in these five districts of the province and can be viewed as the only reason why the voter turnout, remained phenomenal in Tharparkar, which has the largest number of registered Hindu voters in the country.
Although Tharparkar is among the country’s most unprivileged regions, its women voter turnout remained well above 70 percent, which is a new record for this part of the country. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a Hindu candidate – Mahesh Kumar Malani from Tharparkar – has gained more than 100,000 votes and won a general seat. Meanwhile, two other Hindu candidates – Hari Ram Kishori Lal from Hyderabad and Gyanchand Esrani from Sanghar– also won general seats. Through this strategy, the PPP not only gained votes from minority communities, but also won more seats than it has clinched in the past.
In Sanghar, the PPP won more seats than what it had won in the 2013 election. This fact should suffice in indicating the efforts made by the PPP’s previous government to introduce development schemes in Sanghar. In Naushahro Feroze, the PPP’s candidates have beaten the Jatoi clan, who have remained undefeated and dominated the region for more than 100 years. The PML-F has been whitewashed by the PPP in Khairpur Mirs.
The upsetting defeat of Sadaruddin Shah Rashdi and Liaquat Jatoi, two leading political figures, in their own constituencies can’t be overlooked as it shows how planned outcomes and agendas can be achieved through cohesive political strategies.
One of the major contributing factors to the PPP’s victory in Sindh was the presence of supportive local governments throughout the province. It appears that the anti-PPP groups didn’t focus on why they were defeated by the PPP in the local bodies elections of 2016. In fact, this defeat wasn’t a matter of great concern for them. These anti-PPP groups had their eye on securing a win in the general elections of 2018. They didn’t account for the fact that around 90 percent of councillors, chairmen and mayors throughout the province belonged to the PPP.
The GDA and its allies may have utilised various tactics to defame the PPP in Sindh, but these strategies proved to be ineffective in influencing the hearts and minds of Sindh’s people who have been voting for the PPP for many years. While many voters in Sindh had expressed serious reservations regarding the PPP’s top leadership, they pushed aside these concerns and threw their weight behind the party in the elections. This public reaction diminished the GDA’s hopes of gaining ground in Sindh and showed that the people of Sindh aren’t interested in finding an alternative for the PPP.
While finding an alternative to the PPP in Sindh may be the ambition of a small set of people, it isn’t on the agenda of the majority of people in the province. For most people in Sindh, the PPP continues to be the only party that deserves to be in power.
The writer is a freelance contributor and social activist based in Badin, Sindh.