They may not be throwing lavish dinner parties or distributing gifts to induce voters, but this does no mean the Bombay Parsi Punchayet elections are a dull affair.
For better recall value, Parsis are being peppered with ads and handbills by candidates putting a question mark over the code of conduct the community volunteered to adhere to for the polls. Other than the pamphlets, a few candidates have also put up huge hoardings. Though, a small community, the elections are fought bitterly.
Unhappy with the kind of the money being thrown around — with each candidate spending over four times the limit for Lok Sabha candidates — the community came out with a code of conduct. It was voluntarily signed by all 23 candidates and the expense limit was set to Rs3 lakh.
“Why the hypocrisy when they cannot stick to it,” said Dr Viraf Kapadia, a community member. While the community is already upset with some not adhering code of conduct, when dna contacted them, the rivalry came to the fore with candidates feeling that issue was incited by the rivals.
Viraf Mehta — son of present chairman Dinshaw Mehta, who is accused of having the most ads — said: “There was also a code that criticism of rivals will not be there. A panel of three candidates are feeding news against me. I will not point fingers, but I have stuck to my spending limits.”
Community papers and magazines like Jame Jamshed where a full page ad costs Rs 55,000 for color and Rs34,000 for black-and-white advertisement have been utilised the most for campaigning. Parsi Times charges Rs22,500 for a full-page colour ad.
“I was given the ad space at a cheaper rate. One particular candidate is an owner of a paper and has not allowed my ads to appear,” claimed Mehta, but refused to divulge the figures. When dna tried to contact the editor of Jame Jamshed, there was no reply.
Members of ZYNG, a youth wing of BPP — gave ads in his favour on October 10 in the paper. Khojeste Mistree, BPP trustee, complained to the election president saying that the youth wing members had misused ZYNG because it is supposed to be apolitical. “In fact, there are people who are inducing Parsis to buy their votes but I will not name them,” added Mehta.
Yazdi Desai, the only sitting trustee to contest the elections, said he has not crossed the spending limit. “My ads stopped when I realised they would cross the spending limit. Viraf has given the most number of ads.” There were ads by Desai on October 9 and 10 issues of different newspapers.
Xerxes Dastur, who gave ads right from the start, said: “The voluntary code of conduct came much later. In fact, I am pushing for a fixed code of conduct, right to recall. The ads are given by people who support me.”
The three-member panel, who Viraf accused of spreading falsehood, said that they were the last entrants to give ads. Hence, they appeared to be more at the fag end of the election.
“Three of us are contesting and campaigning together so that we can keep the expenses at check. Together, we can spend Rs9 lakh. People are spreading false messages on Whatsapp. If Viraf wants an ad at the last minute and wants three pages, he cannot ask for it when the space is given to someone else. We started ads towards the end. In fact, earlier Viraf had more ads than us in one issue,” said Kersi Randeria, who spoke for his other partners.