Parsis vote to appoint new trustee in fraught election

Chartered accountant Xerxes Dastur was elected as trustee of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet on Sunday.

As many as 6,018 community members cast their votes to appoint a new trustee to the seven-member board. Mr. Dastur, who got 2,968 votes, beat his nearest rival Anahita Desai (2,879) by 89 votes.

The election was a heated contest, with allegations of EVM tampering, fears that a husband-wife couple would form a majority, and rumours that some candidates had lured voters with domestic supplies and free pick-up and drop services.

Ms. Desai is married to BPP chairman Yazdi Desai, and a section of the community feared that if she had won, Mr. Desai would have had the majority vote, given that three other board members mostly side by him. The other candidates in the fray were Ratan Patel, Kersi Sethna and Eric Dhatigara.

Community member Homee Dalal said, “I am happy Mr. Dastur won. I was not in favour of a husband-wife pair on the board.”

As many as 60 EVMs were put up at five venues: Cusrow Baug in Colaba, Khareghat Hall at Hughes Road, Rustom Baug in Byculla, JB Vachha School in Dadar, and Sir Shapurji Bharucha Baug in Andheri. After EVMs malfunctioned at some centres, voting was extended by a few minutes beyond 6 p.m.

BPP elections have always been mired in controversies, and trustees have often had disputes. Community member Rayomond Zaiwala, who did not vote, said, “It seems that nobody is on the BPP to serve. There is always some other agenda. The only way to save the BPP from complete liquidation is to bring in a High Court-appointed administrator to clean up the system.” Many others have also stopped voting.

But some have hope. “The poorest of the poor should get facilities. I hope the board pays attention to this,” said Viraf Kapadia.

Row over foodgrain

An appeal for free foodgrain distribution in August became a point of contention before the election. A few community members, including Mr. Dastur, approached the courts, alleging that the organisers had called upon Parsis to register to get free foodgrains, and to bring identity cards, on on Sunday. The court ordered that the foodgrain distributors would not ask for identify proof and at no point would mention the election.

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