In 2011, on the 1290th anniversary of the Zoroastrian Atash Behram or place of worship in Udvada, the guest of honour, Narendra Modi, hit all the right notes. “I have come here for selfish reasons,” he said.
Article by Nergish Sunawala | Times Of India
“I want the Shreeji Pak Iranshah (sacred Parsi fire) to bless me with ‘Humta-Hukhta-Huvarshta’ (good thoughts, good words, and good deeds).” By evoking the basic tenets of the Parsi faith, Modi, who has often been criticized for his stance on minorities, shrewdly positioned himself as an ally of India’s tiniest community. “When the world’s smallest minority gives a political leader a standing ovation, no greater stamp of approval is required,” added the chief minister.
Another move that won over the Parsi community was Modi’s willingness to step in when an industrial estate or residential colony was planned on 200 acres of land behind the Iranshah. According to a 2011 TOI report, a government official recalled Modi telling the Parsi delegation, “Just as the then king (King Jadav Rana of the eighth century, who gave refuge to the Parsis) took care of you, I will take care of your interests.”
Voting for a saffron party and for a man who was disinvited from the Wharton India Economic Forum for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, is a significant shift for sections of this largely-secular community. Behram Mehta, founder and promoter of Aava Mineral Water, admitted to having heard criticisms of the chief minister prior to Modi launching his mineral water brand in 2005. “But after coming to know him and working with him, we realized everything said about Modi is not true,”explained Mehta. “He gets work done and his persona is such that people are answerable to him and deliver the goods.”
Builder and Bombay Parsi Punchayet trustee, Jimmy Mistry, lauded Modi’s financial acumen. “We need a leader who can get the economy moving again,” said Mistry.
It’s not just businessmen, jumping on the Modi bandwagon. Health guru Mickey Mehta from Mumbai also sees Modi as a viable option. “Congress has failed us miserably and we need fresh blood,” he said. Zoroastrian head priest, Dasturji Khurshed Kekobad Dastoor, will also be casting his vote for the BJP. “It was his vision to showcase Udvada as a place of religious harmony for other communities to see how we have settled in India,” said Dastoor. Asked about the 2002 riots, Dastoor replied, “The violence in Gujarat happened in 2002, now let’s talk about the future. Why not talk about the other riots that took place in Mumbai in 1992-1993 and Delhi in 1984?”
But not all Parsis have let go of their misgivings. “The support for BJP is worrying because no one is questioning why Modi hasn’t given interviews or been open about his economic policy,” said Jehangir Patel, editor of the Parsiana, a community magazine. “I have been to Ahmedabad, Surat, Navsari, Udvada, Bardoli, and the development is no different from what I have seen in Maharashtra. People are disgusted (with the Congress), but I don’t think Modi, Amit Shah and encounter killings are the answer.”