Muncherji Cama, the managing director of Asia’s oldest newspaper ‘Bombay Samachar’ has won the fiercely contested elections to choose a trustee in the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP).
The election to the vacant seat in the seven-member trust was seen as a fight between the reformist and orthodox sections. Cama who was backed by the reformists won by a lead of around 1,700 votes over his rival, Anahita Desai, who belonged to the orthodox World Alliance of Parsi-Irani Zarthoshtis (WAPIZ). Besides being a member of the family that owns the newspaper which was set up in 1822, Cama is also related to the great philanthropic Jeejeebhoy and Petit families.
Vispy Wadia of the group Association for Revival of Zoroastrianism (ARZ) said, “The results showed that the community has rejected the extreme and outdated views on religion”
Advocate Homi Ranina of WAPIZ said, “It is not so much a victory for Cama than the success of groups led by two sitting trustees who used their influence in the community to get him elected”
Earlier, only donors could vote in the elections of the nearly 300-year old trust. In the 1980s, allegations of corruption led to a demand by groups like Committee for Electoral Rights for universal adult franchise or voting rights for every adult member of the community. Besides substantially enlarging the voters’ college, the new election rules, allowed by Bombay high court, also brought changes in a body that was once dominated by heavyweight lawyers, members of great philanthropic and business families and political leaders. Advocate Berjis Desai, managing partner of law firm JSA who also writes a column of Parsi community affairs in Bombay Samachar said, “Earlier, there was a class of trustees who were, for want of a better word, the aristocrats of the community. Even then, there were allegations that poor Parsis were not treated well by the trust, but trustees were rarely accused of dishonesty.”
Though 28,000 voters, mostly from Mumbai, were eligible to vote in this elections, only around 9,000 cast their votes. “There was a lot of apathy among voters. At the same time, the fact that nearly 10,000 voters came out to vote for elections to a charitable trust is significant,” said Desai.