There’s a picture of a spacious flat doing the rounds on Par si Whatsapp gro ups. The floor is li ned with gold bars, stashes of 1000-rupee notes and silver trays. A drooling Alsatian can be spied in the background. “The cleanup will start only after the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) election is over,“ reads the accompanying caption.The image a spoof circulated to tarnish one of the 23 candidates contesting today’s BPP poll is a jarring reminder of all the money that’s at stake.
Often touted as one of Mumbai’s largest private landlords, the BPP owns about 5,000 flats ranging from studios to five-room-kitchens, says BPP chairman Dinshaw Mehta, who has been a trustee for 21 years. It also owns two office buildings in Fort, the Parsi Lying-In hospital, three buildings on a large tract of land in Navsari and the 55-acre Towers of Silence at Malabar Hill. Its 18 residential colonies are spread across the city from Nepean Sea Road’s Godrej Baug to Nirlon Colony in Goregaon.
Given the wealth at its disposal, it’s no wonder that the BPP poll is of interest to the city despite Mumbai’s Parsi community dwindling to just 40,000. National dailies have been following various aspects from the advertising blitzkrieg in Parsi papers to the introduc tion of EVM machines to ru mours of dynastic politics hi jacking the polls.
Today , up to 15,000 Parsis are expected to cast their votes in five centres across the city In the run up to the polls, 250 election officers have conduc ted mock drills, published FAQs on how to use the 100 elec tronic voting machines (EVM) and narrowed down on an emi nent IT audit firm to oversee the process. On election day ,a task force of 500 will be mobilized. For the first time in a century, the BPP has also created a voluntary code of conduct, which asks candidates to refrain from character assassinations and luring voters with lavish meals and freebies.
This has certainly toned down the mudslinging at public meetings and manifestos but WhatsApp has turned into a battleground with “proxy wars“ being waged by candidates’ cronies. Voice recordings and long-winded messages alleging corruption, nepotism and coercion are doing the rounds. “There is so much desperation for power,“ says Parsi health guru Mickey Mehta. “I am ashamed to be a Parsi.“ The medium has also been used to circulate updates like when an eminent doctor withdrew and then renewed his support for a particular candidate.
On the other hand, marketing executive Hosherdar Polad, who will be covering today’s election for Parsi Times, says social media has been used very effectively by younger candidates and might sway the youth. One young contestant sent across regular video updates including a final montage of all his interactions during the campaign trail set to music.