Vada Dasturji Khurshed of Udvada asks Parsis to vote for BJP

Below is an article by good friend of Parsi Khabar and acclaimed journalist Nauzer Bharucha.

It is indeed a first for a Parsi head priest to endorse and support a candidate in a political election. While this is a very common theme in the United States; it is not so common in India; and absolutely unheard of within the Parsi community. Not having read the full text of the letter that bears his signature; I would hold judgement. I am sure Dasturji’s intentions are in good faith; however taking sides in politics can have long term ramifications. We would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Nauzer writes

On the eve of the state polls, a religious head has come out openly to tell his community to vote for the BJP. While Christian, Muslim and Bohra leaders have asked their respective flocks to back the right candidates, the Parsi high priest has explicitly urged the community to support NarendraModi and the BJP.

Article by Nauzer Bharucha | TNN

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Although Parsi votes hardly count, considering their insignificant numbers, the statement of Khurshed Dastur, the high priest of the Iranshah fire temple in Udvada, the most revered place of worship for the community, has raised eyebrows. This is the first time a high priest has expressed his opinion on a political issue.

Dastur’s appeal, co-signed with two others, said, “At the 1,290th birthday celebrations of the Iranshah, then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi heaped praise on the Parsi community and its achievements. He has expressed his desire to declare Udvada a showpiece for peace and harmony. He has, as PM, promised his support to preserve Udvada’s sanctity.”

It further said, “The Modi government has kick-started the economy. The PM’s diplomacy has put our nation back on the international high table and secured foreign investments. The Parsi community, unfortunately, has no presence on the political stage…We appeal to the community to strengthen the hands of the PM by voting for the BJP.”

Industrialist and civic activist Cyrus Guzder slammed the appeal as “an attempt to curry favour with the Gujarat government”. He said, “It is completely inappropriate for a high priest to influence the community on non-religious issues.” Nawaz Mody, ex-head of the Bombay University’s department of civics and politics, called Dastur’s appeal “unprecedented” and “unusual”. “I can’t say whether it is right or wrong. But Modi had intervened when land close to the Udvada fire temple was sought to be sold to a builder some years ago. The support to him comes from that incident,” she said.

For ex-professor of archaeology and history at JNU Shereen Ratnagar, “No religious head has the right to tell members who to vote for. This is a secular society.” However, publisher Maneck Davar, who also signed the statement, said, “This is not a religious appeal. A high priest can hold a political view. It is vital for Parsis to be politically aware.”

For years Parsis had blindly supported one party “but everything changed in the 2014 polls”, he added.