Parsis skipped their Sunday dhansak to vote

Punchayet Elections Witness Lower-Than-Expected Turnout

Article by Nergish Sunavala | Times of India

Serpentine queues marked the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) elections on Sunday , but for once they were a source of jubilation.

19_10_2015_005_001_008“I never knew there were so many Parsis,“ said Villoo Shroff, a member of the community that numbers just 40,000 in Mumbai. At Rustom Baug, a polling agent pointed to a goalpost at the far end of the maidan. “That’s how far the line extended,“ he boasted.For a community fearing extinction, having to wait 90 minutes at a polling station is a reason to celebrate.

But the euphoria was short-lived. When the polls closed after 7pm, only 9,846 people had voted ­ significantly less than in the last big 2008 election. The queues were largely a result of technical glitches. “We were expecting a voter turnout of 12,000 to 15,000,“ said BPP election president Mahiyar Dastoor.

Fortunately , a few “ghosts“ showed up to boost the numbers. “People marked as dead on the electoral rolls arrived passport and Aadhar card in hand,“ said technology officer Yazdi Tantra, who was in charge of “resurrecting“ them.

With 18 colonies under its control, the BPP is one of the city’s largest private landlords. On Sunday , 23 candidates contested five out of seven seats ­ two trustees have still to complete their terms.

The winners were CSR expert Noshir Dadrawala, Kersi Randeria, owner of Parsi Times, builder Zarir Bhathena, former BPP trustee Yazdi Desai and Viraf Mehta, who works at an investment firm.

Since universal adult franchise was introduced in 2008, elections to this board have been fiercely competitive. In fact, a voluntary code of conduct was adopted this year to keep campaign expenditures in check and rein in the mudslinging. Even on Election Day, the 250 officers monitoring the polls were forced to censure candidates for handing out paper fans and keychains.

In recent years, two rival factions of the BPP board have been at loggerheads, causing all work to come to a grinding halt. Community members kept this in mind while casting their votes. Rayomand Sirvala, for instance, was keen on choosing candidates, who were both flexible and morally upright.

In the run-up to the elections, social media was the chosen forum for character assassinations.

On Sunday , it played a far less sinister role. Karishma Khodaiji was snapping a picture of her inked finger outside the Rustom Baug polling booth when TOI caught up with her. “I’m planning to upload it to Snapchat,“ said the 23-year-old.

As for the election results, which were announced around 10.30pm, voter Lily Mistry put it best. “Parsis have skipped their Sunday dhansak to vote, so the newly elected trustees better do justice to their sacrifice.“