Otherwise known to be a genteel people, the Parsi community is likely to witness mud-slinging, name-calling and character assassination over the next two months as the 350-year-old Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP) prepares to get itself a fresh bunch of trustees.
With elections scheduled over three weekends in October, the race has formally begun for the coveted trusteeship of an organisation that controls 5,000 flats in Mumbai and assets worth thousands of crores, including the prime Doongerwadi land at Malabar Hill. The BPP is the largest private landlord in the city.
For the first time in the history of the BPP, the entire community will be able to vote after the Bombay HC approved universal adult franchise. Earlier, only about 2,000 mainly donor voters, had the right to cast their votes.
Now, because of adult franchise close to 30,000 community members, have been empowered to stamp on the ballot paper.
On Saturday, amidst tight police security, hundreds of Parsis packed the Y B Chavan Hall near Mantralaya where a group called the Adult Franchise for Progress (AFP) announced its list of seven candidates.
The brainchild of prominent solicitor and reformist Burgis Desai, the AFP's key objective is to provide the community an opportunity to elect seven “good men and women of independence, integrity and compassion'' to manage the funds and properties of the BPP.
The candidates include senior advocate Nadir Modi, housing expert Maneck Engineer, businessman Behram Jeejeebhoy, HDFC vice-chairman and managing director Keki Mistry, director of Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital Dr Ketayun Dinshaw, tax expert Soli Dastur and charity management expert Noshir Dadrawalla.
“August 9 is remembered as the Quit India day. For the Parsis, let this day be called the 'Quit Indifference Day','' said Desai, appealing to the community to get involved and stop criticising the system.
Supporting the AFP candidates, Thermax India director Anu Aga said she was approached to stand as a candidate, but refused because she was told about the mudslinging that a trustee gets.
“I am not a practicising Zoroastrian. When I asked a childhood friend, who has a different viewpoint on religion if she would vote for me, she said no. Here is someone who respects me, yet had the courage to tell me this.''