BATTLE FOR VOTES: For better recall value, Parsis are being peppered with advertisements by candidates putting a question mark over the code of conduct
One of the advertisements published in community newspaper Jam-e-Jamshed
They may not be throwing lavish dinner parties or distributing gifts to induce voters, but this does no mean the Bombay Parsi Punchayet elections are a dull affair.
For better recall value, Parsis are being peppered with ads and handbills by candidates putting a question mark over the code of conduct the community volunteered to adhere to for the polls. Other than the pamphlets, a few candidates have also put up huge hoardings. Though, a small community, the elections are fought bitterly.
Unhappy with the kind of the money being thrown around — with each candidate spending over four times the limit for Lok Sabha candidates — the community came out with a code of conduct. It was voluntarily signed by all 23 candidates and the expense limit was set to Rs3 lakh.
“Why the hypocrisy when they cannot stick to it,” said Dr Viraf Kapadia, a community member. While the community is already upset with some not adhering code of conduct, when dna contacted them, the rivalry came to the fore with candidates feeling that issue was incited by the rivals.
Viraf Mehta — son of present chairman Dinshaw Mehta, who is accused of having the most ads — said: “There was also a code that criticism of rivals will not be there. A panel of three candidates are feeding news against me. I will not point fingers, but I have stuck to my spending limits.”
Community papers and magazines like Jame Jamshed where a full page ad costs Rs 55,000 for color and Rs34,000 for black-and-white advertisement have been utilised the most for campaigning. Parsi Times charges Rs22,500 for a full-page colour ad.
“I was given the ad space at a cheaper rate. One particular candidate is an owner of a paper and has not allowed my ads to appear,” claimed Mehta, but refused to divulge the figures. When dna tried to contact the editor of Jame Jamshed, there was no reply.
Members of ZYNG, a youth wing of BPP — gave ads in his favour on October 10 in the paper. Khojeste Mistree, BPP trustee, complained to the election president saying that the youth wing members had misused ZYNG because it is supposed to be apolitical. “In fact, there are people who are inducing Parsis to buy their votes but I will not name them,” added Mehta.
Yazdi Desai, the only sitting trustee to contest the elections, said he has not crossed the spending limit. “My ads stopped when I realised they would cross the spending limit. Viraf has given the most number of ads.” There were ads by Desai on October 9 and 10 issues of different newspapers.
Xerxes Dastur, who gave ads right from the start, said: “The voluntary code of conduct came much later. In fact, I am pushing for a fixed code of conduct, right to recall. The ads are given by people who support me.”
The three-member panel, who Viraf accused of spreading falsehood, said that they were the last entrants to give ads. Hence, they appeared to be more at the fag end of the election.
“Three of us are contesting and campaigning together so that we can keep the expenses at check. Together, we can spend Rs9 lakh. People are spreading false messages on Whatsapp. If Viraf wants an ad at the last minute and wants three pages, he cannot ask for it when the space is given to someone else. We started ads towards the end. In fact, earlier Viraf had more ads than us in one issue,” said Kersi Randeria, who spoke for his other partners.
With just a week to go for the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) elections, aspiring trustees have been giving stump speeches at colonies across Mumbai. On Wednesday, three candidates who are canvassing together as “The Tremendous Three“ were speaking at Colaba’s Cusrow Baug -a citadel of lemon yellow buildings, green lawns and vintage Fiats. With over 5,000 apartments and many commercial establishments under its control, the BPP is the city’s largest private landlord and Cusrow Baug is by far its most lucrative property with flats selling for upwards of Rs 5 crore.
Given the wealth at its dis posal, it’s no wonder that the BPP poll is being taken very seriously by Mumbai’s Parsi community , which numbers just 40,000. In the run-up to the October 18 polls, 250 election of ficers have been busy conducting mock drills, scouring the electoral rolls for duplications, arranging for ambulances at the five polling stations and pressing candidates to stick to a voluntary code of conduct.Community papers and magazines -one of which is owned by a candidate -are rife with testimonials, voting FAQs and full-page ads that can cost up to Rs 55,000, and even aspirants are interrupting their chestthumping rhetoric to give live demonstrations of the newlyintroduced Electronic Voting Machines (EVM).
At Cusrow Baug, one contender pulled out a dummy machine and began explaining the nitty-gritties of the process.“Each booth has two EVMs because a single machine has only 16 slots and there are 23 candidates,“ he told the crowd of over a hundred senior citizens, some of whom had expressed fears of “rigging“.
The Times of India (Bombay) Oct 11 2015, Pages 1 and 4:
It’s not a touchscreen so `dabao’ the button for the red light to come on,“ he added. Since five out of seven seats are up for grabs, voters can select up to five candidates. An exhaustive set of EVM FAQs, created by the BPP’s election team, deals with every question imaginable from “Can I undo my selection?“ to “What if there is a power failure?“ to “Can I vote for the same candidate multiple times?“
Last year, India conducted the world’s largest election when 81.4 crore people-larger than the population of Europe — cast their vote in 9.3 lakh polling stations fitted with 14 lakh EVMs. This election might be diminutive in comparison — a maximum of 15,000 Parsis are expected to cast their vote at five centres fitted with 100 EVMs–but it’s being arranged with the same earnestness. “At each centre, there will be an in-charge polling officer and three to four assistant polling officers, who are established members of the community,“ says BPP Election President Mahiyar Dastoor.“The whole mobilization will be nearly 500 people, of which 230 will be polling agents from the candidates’ side, and a hundred IT support staff for the EVM machines.“ One booth in each centre will be reserved for handicapped voters, wheelchairs will be available at all polling stations and three ambulances will be on standby for elderly voters.
The entire process, which includes hiring EVMs and an external IT audit firm to oversee the polls, will cost the BPP almost Rs 25 lakh, says Dastoor. And the process will have to be repeated in six months’ time when one of the two currently occupied seats is vacated. On Election Day, people will have to show their election cards and a government-sanctioned ID, their name will be ticked off an online electoral roll and their forefinger will be marked with indelible ink.
A dry run of 150 voters has already been conducted in Khareghat Colony to evaluate how long each voter will take to complete the process and ensure that there are no hiccups. The results will be declared the same evening at the Dadar Parsi Colony Gymkhana. One curious lacuna in this otherwise watertight process is that when voters register to be added to the electoral roll, there is no way of verifying that they are Parsi. “Your passport, your Aadhar card, nothing mentions your religion,“ says Dastoor. “It’s only based on the name.“
Many view this as a make or break election because the current board’s rival factions have spent the majority of their terms blocking each other’s proposals and hurling allegations –and abuse — at each other. According to the editor of the Parsi Times Freyan Bhathena, “The fate of this community depends on these elections.“
Which is perhaps why for the first time in over a 100 years, the BPP has also created a voluntary code of conduct. It asks candidates to refrain from luring voters with expensive freebies like cell phones, laptops, flat screen TV sets, and refrigerators. In the past, some candidates even organized buffets and retro nights in Parsi baugs, while others wined and dined voters at swanky restaurants.It’s these extravagances, which led the code’s formulators to impose a cap of Rs 3 lakh on campaign expenditure.
Additionally , to avoid the mud-slinging that has shadowed past campaigns, the code also asks candidates to “restrict criticism to polices, programmes, past record and work only“. “The code of conduct has definitely made a difference. It is far more gentlemanly , far more orderly,“ says Jehangir Patel, who runs the community magazine Parsiana. Bhathena agrees though she credits the Parsi press for educating voters more than the newly-introduced code of conduct.
Community member Farrokh Jijina, however, says personal attacks continue but have simply switched mediums. “It’s there but it is surreptitious. Now, personal allegations are coming on Whatsapp and other social media.“
Covering a Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) trusteeship election with 23 candidates (two dropped out on September 30) vying for five seats is a challenging proposition for a semi-monthly community magazine. Aside from limited personnel resources and allowing that several candidates don’t hold public meetings, how does one introduce the contestants to the electorate in so short a span of time?
Both the Jam-e-Jamshed and the Parsi Times are replete with advertisements extolling the virtues and viewpoints of the aspirants, as is thankfully this issue of Parsiana. But advertisements only provide an insight into what the hopefuls choose to convey. At election meets voters get an opportunity to ask questions, observe the body language, gauge the ease or difficulty with which the contestant answers. Often though the pertinent questions are not raised, or asked of some candidates but not others. At different venues different concerns are voiced, so unless one attends all the meets one does not obtain a comprehensive overview.
Are the candidates liberal? Orthodox? Do they favor tenancy over leave and license, auctioning flats instead of allotting them to the disadvantaged? Do they discriminate against those who hold contrary outlooks? How would they tackle problems? Would they repeat the same errors as the last board? And so on. Many of the gatherings start late in the evening and as the speakers drone on the crowd disperses, so the question-answer session is perforce restricted.
To counter this we prepared a pointed questionnaire which we emailed to the 25 candidates. Initially we had decided on a two-tier questionnaire with the first half being subjective, essay-like and the second, objective with a yes/no/can’t say option with a 75-word per answer explanation should the party wish to give one. But with so many contestants in the fray, we felt the material would become unwieldy. Hence we restricted the questionnaire to 21 objective questions and permitted the candidates to state their general views in a 200-word essay at the end.
Candidates understandably want to appease the largest number of voters. If a particular answer may alienate one section or the other, they may deem it prudent to remain silent. There are few collective fora from which the public or journalists can grill the candidates. On so-called “religious” issues the four defense services veterans have publicly stated they would consult the high priests and scholars. The last board of trustees also followed the same disastrous approach.
Trustees cannot be subservient to the high priests or vice versa. Both are separate but equal. Both have to fight their own battles. And who is to decide whether an issue is religious, legal, moral, economic or political? If the trustees believe that the BPP is a “religious” trust, they should all resign and hand over the management to the clergy. The community may then receive much required divine assistance!
Candidates who apparently have not read or understood the BPP trust deed of 1884 constantly keep reiterating the BPP was formed to look after Doongerwadi above all else. A primary reading of the document would show that it was first created for the welfare of the community. As the BPP’s major asset was the Doongerwadi lands, the deed stressed “also” looking after property. Housing is not even one of the major objects of the trust. Perhaps that is why the present trustees have not built any housing and even left 124 to 140 flats vacant!
Of the 15 individuals who answered the objective portion of our questionnaire, 14 candidates stated the three crore rupees (US $ 4,55,578) or so spent on the priests litigation was “wasted.” The veterans, who did not answer the questionnaire terming some questions “pointed and loaded… malicious… based on talks doing the rounds,” expressed doubt about the authenticity of the three crore figure. World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis (WAPIZ) and BPP trustee Khojeste Mistree who initiated the ban has always questioned the three crore figure but never specified the actual amount spent. But anybody who has had the misfortune to be involved in litigation in the High Courts and the Supreme Court and engaged top notch lawyers would know that the figure is not unrealistic. Even an adjournment in the apex court costs around Rs 10,00,000.
The veterans were the only known candidates to seek and receive an endorsement from two high priests, Dasturs (Drs) Firoze Kotwal and Peshotan Mirza. Nearly all the other contestants wisely kept the clergy out, at least to date. This reflects a growing maturity. The last election was fought on the basis of the religion being in danger. Now, thanks to the present trustees, it is the community that’s in jeopardy.
Parsiana salutes the candidates who honestly stated their views and were willing to face any resultant consequences. Elections are not only about winning. They are also an opportunity to educate the public and elevate the caliber of debate and discussion. By ignoring, overlooking or shying away from providing a clear picture of their thinking, the candidates may have underestimated the public’s capacity to judge rationally and fairly.
By the time this issue of Parsiana reaches voter, they will have a week or so to grill the candidates. Avail of the opportunity. The community has the right to know what their to-be-elected representatives think and believe.
By Mrs Goolrukh Vispi Buhariwala (Nee Gutta) – An Ordinary and common Zoroastrian, next door – Contestant for the post of a Trustee for Bombay Parsee Panchayat.
Trustees-The word itself is Petrifying for an ordinary Zoroastrian. But according to me the other word for a Trustee is a “Caretaker” of someone else’s moveable and immoveable assets. They are definitely not the owners, so we do not have to be scared of them.
Dear Readers as I am contesting for BPP elections, I would like to give you some information regarding myself. I am a Commerce graduate. I have worked in a Medical organisation for 30 years (10 years with one of the top most hospital in Mumbai and 20 years with a reputed Diagnostic Centre). I am an Honorary Girl Guide Captain (Teacher) associated with a very prestigious Parsee School from where I studied ever since I was a student till date. Have been awarded The Presidents’ Gold Cord Award by the then President of India Mr Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy at 16 years of age. In the year 2007, I was one of the two Parsee Girl Guide Captain from all over the world who was selected in the International Service Team from Maharashtra to represent India at the 21st World Scout Jamboree (International Centenary Celebration at Chelmsford London, United Kingdom). 40,000 Scouts and Guides from 138 countries participated and only two Parsee Guides were selected to meet the Chief Guest. We were also invited to visit the Buckingham Palace. I have one of the most prestigious collections for Guiding Movement which is referred as “Pride of our Country”. I have received many accolades for the same from our state and country. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has great regards and respect for me and she and her secretary have a regular correspondence with me. For these achievements one has to go through a very hard, rigorous, meticulous and truthful training in educational field and learn to be a Silent Worker for the betterment of humanity. The said training starts at 13 years of age. One should have the inner inclination and dedication to help others for which age does not matter. The word Guide itself means “A Path Finder”.
My main aim for this contest is that I want to open the gates and make a road which never ends and encourages more of our Zoroastrians to stand as a candidate in the upcoming years for the benefit of our community, without a fear and hatred for thispost. I feel more women should take charge in this matter as they are excellent “Administrative Ministers”. Along with educational knowledge, practical experience and those who are the sufferers should take part and try to overcome these problems. I maybe a fresher and may not be highly recognized personality in our community but I have the inclination and I have worked in the administrative work in my area since several years and would like to do something good for our community. With experienced caretakers/trustees a fresher with better and new ideas should be encouraged. One thing that I can rest assure is that I am a very firm and a determined lady in taking correct, straight forward and truthful decisions and would never compromise with my principles. No one can pressurise me for any wrong work however influential that person may be or even if they are known to me. Whoever knows me, can vouch for my this quality. If given an opportunity I will definitely prove myself to be a hardworking and an honest worker. I always believe that instead of complaining on our downfalls, solving them is more challenging. I would be open to suggestions and take advice from each faculty as they know their field of work far better. For example, a priest knows more about Agyaries and religion, who shall be a better person to guide than a pallbearer for our sacred Dokhmenashini. Senior Citizens can definitely give their ideas for their old age facilities. Teachers and Doctors are the main hands and milestones of our life and I would definitely take their advice if they help me with my work. Instead of only saving our property I would rather think of expanding it with the help of Financial and Legal advisors.
All good hearted Zoroastrians, I really do not understand the whole procedure of this election or selection system. When our community is so small and every Zoroastrian claims that ours is the most ancient, prestigious and superior community in the world then why is each and every person trying to prove themselves as the best and making so much noise and chaos for just a post.
Why is there so much waste of money, when there is so much of inflation, corruption, unemployment, shortage of natural reserves, terrorism, fatal diseases coming up? Is it necessary to show off the qualities within you by incurring so heavy expenses? It is a shame that by putting messages and giving information about our financial losses and declaring our disloyalty towards our community, we are not showing our concern but we are reflecting our setbacks to every other community in the world. I feel our ancestors must be cursing us by giving us so much of luxuries. Is it the “EXCESS” which has made us such a bad human being? Our community is very lucky that our ancestors have left us with so much of abundant facilities. We should be highly thankful to them for all these readily available surroundings we are offered. I think that from the time a Zoroastrian child is born he/ she is told what is his/ her Blood Group, G6PD and how much is their inherited unearned ancestral and forefathers’ excellent ready to use property in the form of Baugs, Schools, Hospitals etc. Instead parents should teach and inculcate their child to become one more Dr. Homi J. Bhabha (Scientist) or one Mr. Sorabji Pochkhanawala and Pherozeshah Mehta (founders of Central Bank of India) or one Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw (Army Officer) or one Dr. Rustom B. Billimoria (founder of Bel-Air Hospital for tuberculosis in Panchgani). Even if we get one of each great personality, one would make our community, our society, our country and the world proud of us. Teach them to utilise these good treasures for their better future and for that, good and efficient “Caretakers” are very essential. My message to the youngsters, “Let’s make an umbrella of efforts with the knowledge from the new and guidance from the old generation to protect and expand our community from Ants to Elephants”. Understand the Power of our Prayers, learn to respect every religion but to firmly believe and adore only our religion. I have been taught that never have eyes on someone else’s property, but at the same time never allow anyone to take away my rightful possessions. I feel that if someone has done wrong with us then we are equally responsible and punishable for allowing them to do so.
“It is the faith, support and strength from my husband, parents, brother, daughters, relatives, in-laws, family, neighbours, my teacher, my employers, friends and well-wishers who have confidence in me and my dedication for work, as I have always stood like a rock for them all these years and now they feel that it is my duty to devote my coming life for the betterment of our community.” For me this small world of mine makes my entire canvassing for this post. I really value my hard earned money and believe in utilizing in right ways. My parents always said, “Be Happy if you Get. Be Happier if you do not Get”. It is for my well-wishers to decide what is good for me. If I Win, I would be on the Answering side, and if I Lose, I would be on the Questioning side.So for me working for the good of the community is more important rather than to worry about the post.
I wish I had the properties of “An Alum” and could save my Pak Dadar Ahura Mazda’s community. I always feel why think small and work only for the community, why not make the whole Universe worth the living as that would be The God’s most prestigious gift back to Him from mankind. Let’s not talk about today and tomorrow, let’s think of an ultimate goal and for that each voter before they fill in the ballot paper ask yourself, do I really have the knowledge of voting the right person, who can take care of our forefathers’ treasure sincerely? Since it is fully the decision of my Zoroastrians via votes, to give me the permission and authority to work on their behalf, I have no right to make any promises and commitments till they select me as their caretaker/trustee.
Learn to say Thank-You atleast once a day to anyone, life would be much satisfied. After reading this article, even if one word has proved to be good for my community, then it’s worth writing. If you wish kindly forward this article to other fellow community members as well.
If any needy person from any community needs any help and if its within my reach, please feel free to text me on +91 9920117005 or can e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accept my apology if knowingly or unknowingly have hurt anyone’s feelings or sentiments.
ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE ELECTION OF THE 5 TRUSTEES OF THE BOMBAY PARSI PUNCHAYET
Candidatures were received from the following persons for the Election to be held on Sunday, 18th October 2015, to fill in the vacancies of 5 Trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet.
NAME OF CANDIDATE,
NAME OF PROPOSER
NAME OF SECONDER
Mr. Danesh Kaikhushroo Nejadkay
Mr. Asphandiar Rustomji Dadachanji
Mr. Khodadad P. Irani
Mr. Dara Bahadur Patel
Capt. Percy Meher Master
Mr. Sam Savak Choksey
Mrs. Goolrukh Vispi Buhariwala
Mr. Vispi Jehangir Buhariwala
Mr. Shahrukh Sorab Gutta
Dr. Homi Burjor Dhalla
Dr. Jimmy Nadershaw Sidhva
Mr. Maneck Hormusjee Engineer
Mr. Hoshang J. B. Jal
Mr. Yezdi Framroz Langrana
Mr. Aspi Framroz Pardiwalla
Mr. Kemas Dara M. Wadia
Mr. Malcolm Marzban Jafrabadwala
Ms. Khurshid Kemas Wadia
Mr. Kersi Jamshed Randeria
Mr. Dinshaw Kaiki Tamboly
Mrs. Arnavaz Jal Mistry
Maj. Gen. Khurshed Maneck Bulsara SM, VSM, (Retd.)
Ms. Shernaz Dara Mehta
Ms. Jeroo Minoo Wadia
Mr. Maneck Eruch Davar
Mr. Sam Nariman Variava
Mr. Darius J. Khambata
Er. Marazban P. Maney
Mr. Feroze Soly Sethna
Mr. Phiroze Soli Navdar
Comdr. Medioma Bhada (Retd.)
Mr. Minoo Bomanshaw Tavadia
Comdr. Aspi Dhunjishaw Marker (Retd.)
Mr. Minoo Savakshaw Nalawalla
Ms. Dinaz Marazban Patrawala
Mr. Diniar Darab Mehta
Sqn.Ldr. Minoo Ruci Wadia V.M. (Retd.)
Ms. Silloo Dhun Mistry
Mr. Dara Nowroji Mehta
Mr. Noshir Homi Dadrawala
Mr. Nadir Ardeshir Modi
Mr. Zal Kaikhoshroo Eranee
Mr. Parvez Keki Umrigar
Mr. Darayes M. Karkaria
Mr. Shahrukh Behram Golwalla
Dr. Percy Doctor
Mr. Viraf Nariman Katgara
Mr. Sarosh Irani
Maj. Gen. Soli N. Pavri
AVSM, VSM (Retd.)
Ms. Jeroo Minoo Wadia
Ms. Shernaz Dara Mehta
Mr. Tehmtan Jamshedji Dumasia
Mr. Rustom Nanabhoy Jeejeebhoy
Mr. Khodadad P. Irani
Mr. Viraf D. Mehta
Mr. Adille Jehangir Sumariwalla
Mr. Farrokh Kaikhushru Kavarana
Mr. Xerxes Vispi Dastur
Mr. Minoo R. Shroff
Mr. Cyrus Jamshed Guzder
Mr. Yazdi Hosi Desai
Mr. Areez Pirojshaw Khambatta
Mr. Homi Phiroze Ranina
Mr. Zarir Manchershaw Bhathena
Mr. Homi Adi Katgara
Mr. Minoo R. Shroff
Dr. Zuleika Firdosh Homavazir (Sattha)
Mr. Firdosh Minocher Homavazir
Mrs. Shernaaz Firdosh Homavazir
2 Candidates withdrew their nomination; therefore, the contest for the Election of 5 Trustees’ vacancies post will be amongst 23 candidates.
Kindly note that Donor Voters’ Certificates 1 to 1518 and General Voters’ Certificate from 1 to 37897 will be valid for the Election.
Laminated Voters’ Certificate will be invalid. In such cases Voters are requested to obtain duplicate certificates latest by Friday, 9th October 2015 uptil 5.30 P.M.
All Voters must carry an original Government issued photo identification like PAN Card, Adhaar Card, Government Voters Card, Driving Licence or Passport.
Certificates collected on production of Authority Letters by a third party should have the members’ signature duly attested by a Notary. Members whose Certificates are not Attested will not be allowed to vote.
Election will be held simultaneously at the following fives centres on Sunday, 18th October 2015 between 10.00 A.M. to 7.00 P.M:
Sir Shapurji Bharucha Baug, Andheri (West).
Cusrow Baug, Colaba.
Khareghat Memorial Hall, Khareghat Colony, Hughes Road.