Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Parsi Punchayet bypoll an expensive affair

The electorate is a measly 9,000, but the expenditure being incurred by two of four candidates in a Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) by-election is an eye-popping Rs40 lakh. The irony is, Rustom Tirandaz, the trustee whose death caused the by-poll, had won his seat by spending the modest sum of Rs30,000.

Still, the poll-spend by the candidates pales in comparison to what just one candidate spent in the October 2008 BPP polls: Rs40 lakh. The outlandish sums are spent because no code of conduct is in place for elections to the BPP, which comprises seven trustees. The Parsi community in Mumbai number between 40,000 and 50,000, of whom 33,000 are registered with the BPP and can vote.

But polling seldom crosses 40%. In the October election, the turnout was 13,000. "This time, since it is a by-election, the turnout is unlikely to be more than 9,000," said Dinshaw Mehta, chairman, BPP. Two of three phases of the by-poll have been held with the final being on April 19; 7,000 votes have been polled so far.

But where do these huge amounts go in a seemingly small election? Well, the poll proper may not be an elaborate affair, but the campaigning certainly is. Candidates spend on lavish dinner gatherings. A candidate recently invited 3,800 people to Allbless Baug, hiring which for an evening can cost Rs30,000. The Dadar Gymkhana is another favoured spot for such gatherings. Then there are newspaper advertisements, entertainment shows and usual campaign expenses on banners and posters.

The main candidates in the fray — Armaity Tirandaz, Rustom’s widow, and Maneck Engineer — were evasive about the expenditure they were incurring when DNA contacted them.

Original article here.