For the first time in a century, BPP introduces voluntary code of conduct for aspiring trustees, restricts candidates to spending no more than Rs 3 lakh for campaigning
The upcoming Bombay Parsi Punchayet elections will have a voluntary code of conduct -the first in over a hundred years.
Jyoti Shelar | Times of India
Contestants aspiring to become trustees of the 300-year-old body, that governs plush residential and commercial complexes and is known to be the city’s richest will, among other things, have to refrain from blatantly luring voters with expensive gadgets, lavish buffets and other costly gifts.
The code, comprising 20 points, has been drafted by eminent community members and former BPP trustees. “Majority of the trustees have accepted the voluntary code of conduct,“ said BPP trustee Yazdi Desai, adding that those who refuse to abide by the code will not be allowed to campaign within Parsi baugs and colonies.
Five of the seven BPP trustees, including chairman Dinshaw Mehta, will complete their seven-year tenure and their seats will be up for grabs. While the election dates are yet to be announced, trustees say it will be conducted in two phases –July and October -due to difference in dates of trustees completing their tenures.
The last few BPP elections have been mired in controversies, with candidates openly distributing expensive gifts including cell phones, laptops, flat screen TV sets, refrigerators, etc. Voters were also taken for lavish dinners and cocktail parties at high-end venues. A few candidates organised buffets and retro nights in baugs too.
The code now bans all such activities, and states that candidates must maintain a level playing field. It also allows candidates to spend no more than Rs 3 lakh for campaigning, and restricts them from propaganda in fire tem ples and the Tower of Silence, besides hooting, booing, sloganeering and interrupting at other campaign venues.
A community activist said that one past candidate had spent Rs 1.3 crore on freebies. “Having a code of conduct is mainly to avoid such irregularities. Going by past controversies, it’s best to act now,“ said former trustee Dinshaw Tamboly, who was the chief coordinator in drafting the code, along with legal experts like Burjor Antia, Edul P Bharucha, Darius Khambata and others.“It’s a community trust, and one cannot spend such high amounts to influence voters,“ said Tamboly, recalling that he spent a meagre Rs 10,000 on leaflets and posters when he contested in 1996.
BPP’s chairman Mehta, however, feels that a voluntary code makes no sense. “Some points are valid, but a voluntary code of conduct serves only the vested interest of a few trustees,“ said Mehta, who has also moved court over discrepancies regarding his tenure. While majority of trustees say Mehta was appointed in July 2008, he claims he took office in October 2008.
POWER OF TRUSTEESHIP
BPP was established way back in 1672 with quasi legislative, judicial and religious powers. The first elections, however, took place in 1911. While of fice bearers earlier had a say in religious matters, it later shifted its concentration to properties.
With over 5,000 flats in the city and many commercial establishments, BPP is the second largest land owner after Mumbai Port Trust.
BPP trustees command immense power and prestige within the community, and deal in crores with flat allocations and security deposits. BPP is said to have a corpus of over Rs 250 crore and an annual revenue of more than Rs 35 crore.