For the first time in 50 years, the illustrious Mehta family won’t be contesting the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls from what used to be its stronghold in Mumbai Central.
The Mehtas are an example of how the Parsi community, which once played an important role in Mumbai’s politics, is no longer in the electoral race. The only Parsi in the current house, which will be dissolved after February 21 elections, is Noshir Mehta, who is serving his fourth term.
Before him, his sister Anita (two terms) and father Rusy (five terms) represented the area in the last 50 years. This time, Mehta is not contesting as his ward has been reserved for other backward class (OBC) candidates following delimitation.
Noshir, 72, who has served as the chairperson of the prestigious BEST Committee, says migration of Parsis in large numbers has dented their representation. The dwindling numbers will affect prospects of candidates like him. During the pre-Independence era, Parsis played a major role in Mumbai municipality politics but today none of the prominent political parties have fielded a Parsi candidate.
Dinshaw Mehta, former chairperson of Bombay Parsi Punchayet, a community body, points out that political parties tend to ignore Parsi candidates because the community has no substantial numbers. Currently, Parsi population in city is said to be a little over 50,000.
The community has produced well-known politicians, who were stalwarts since the pre-independence era. Ferozshah Mehta, fondly called the father of Bombay Municipality, BK Boman Behram, a renowned mayor, and Mancherji Joshi, who was instrumental in setting up Five Gardens.
The primary characteristic these politicians exhibited was they were people of high integrity and incessant in demanding various civic amenities for the citizens.
One of the last prominent Parsi councillors was Rustom Tirandaz, who represented the Five Gardens constituency for decades. He made things difficult for the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP alliance by exposing various scams.
According to Arvind Ganachari, former head of the history department at Mumbai varisty, Parsis played a crucial role in setting up the city. “The community donated large tracts of land as well as gave generous donations for setting up various institutions. Parsis even built Mumbai’s infrastructure,” he added.
According to Dinshaw Mehta, there seems to be an overall apathy towards electoral politics from the community members. In fact, its not just political but even social life where Parsis are not seen much.
“Forget BMC, but we are not getting eminent people even for our Parsi trusts,” said Mehta. “The younger generation is not happy with the kind of mud-slinging and the manner in which the entire system runs.”