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“The alliance is over”

There was never much love lost between Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) chairman Yazdi Desai and his co-trustee Noshir Dadrawala. The emails exchanged between the two (see "Foolhardy or faithful?" pg 24) reflect a growing schism between the onetime allies. The subsequent emails received by Parsiana are even more virulent.

In an email dated August 26, 2017 at 2.10 p.m. Dadrawala labels Desai "Mr Original Pendulum" and goes on to state, "Much as I hate it, see you on Tuesday (day of the weekly board meetings)!" to which Desai responds at 4.38 p.m. "Watch your words, Dhongidox. You betrayed us and slyly went and had food in Gaylord with our sworn enemy (former BPP chairman Dinshaw Mehta). And you continue to keep in touch. Forget ‘original’ and ‘duplicate,’ all of history has shown that you are the ‘only’ pendulum! You don’t have to see me on can resign before that!"

Not to be outdone. Dadrawala responds one hour, 22 minutes later: "Get you facts right Mr Chairman. I met Mehta and Phiroze Amroliwalla in early May at the latter’s request and all we had was a cup of tea and I paid for it, ask either of them. And, I went just to hear them... not patch up with anyone… You have taken scores of arbitrary decisions behind our backs. Whatever I have done is boldly."

The exchanges arose over item 5 on the board’s agenda regarding lowering the service charges "from Rs 750 per month to Rs 200 with retrospective effect for non-Parsi occupants of Palmlands in (Navajbai) Contractor Baug in Mahim, the board to also consider the same reduction for all occupants in BPP baugs and buildings."

"I am sure each and every trustee will back the proposal to the hilt," wrote Dadrawala. The occupants of the cosmopolitan building are reportedly original tenants and no services are extended to them. The board finally agreed to levy a charge of Rs 400, according to reports.

Desai claimed that co-trustees Kersi Randeria and Dadrawala reduced the rate "in my absence and without the issue being on the agenda and despite you both being aware of how strongly I felt on the subject."

While the present board of trustees is divided four (Desai, Dadrawala, Randeria and Zarir Bhathena) to two (Armaity Tirandaz and Viraf Mehta, Dinshaw’s son) on most issues, there is always a danger for Desai that Dadrawala along with Bhathena could switch sides. Like Dadrawala, Bhathena too has a long history of enmity with Desai over the construction of Hilla Towers in Lalbaug.

That would leave only Randeria by Desai’s side. Though the duo are not ideologically in tune, they share an intense dislike for Dinshaw that binds their relationship.

Muncherji Cama’s trusteeship seat is in limbo with the issue of his resignation languishing in the timeless portals of the Charity Commissioner’s office. Cama’s thinking is in tune with the Mehtas’ on many issues but he does not attend the board meetings due to the pending litigation.

Desai would do well not to follow Dinshaw’s tactical blunders when he was chairman. Dinshaw had a four to three majority but in his usual intransigent manner, alienated then trustee Arnavaz Mistry. Her switching sides to the Desai/Khojeste Mistree/Jimmy Mistry combine meant Dinshaw was in a minority with only Tirandaz and Cama for support. Earlier Dinshaw’s rough treatment of Dadrawala resulted in Dadrawala resigning from the trust within three years of being elected as the only candidate from the Adult Franchise for Progress platform backed by Randeria in 2008.

Cracks in the relationship of Desai, Dadra­wala, Randeria and Bhathena began occurring earlier this year over the appointment of Dinshaw Tamboly to the National Commission for Minorities. Desai put aside his orthodoxy and supported the liberal at the urging of Randeria and others. Desai did not consult his south Gujarat WAPIZ (World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis) associates about the appointment and when the nomination became public knowledge, they charged the BPP with duplicity. Desai changed his stand and, reportedly without consulting his co-trustees, wrote a letter to the government withdrawing support and maligning Tamboly.

Tamboly is a close ally of Randeria and supported his electoral panel, including Dadrawala, in the 2008 BPP trusteeship elections and also backed Randeria, Dadrawala and Bhathena in the 2015 elections.

Desai, like Dinshaw Mehta, tends to be autocratic. His barring of discussions at the usually open forum of The Federation of the Parsi Zoroastrian Anjumans of India (FPZAI) stands in contrast to the earlier chairmen. Dinshaw Mehta wielded the stop discussion clause when basically faced with the barrage of opposition from WAPIZ supporter Tannaz Parakh. Desai halts the proceedings if he believes something against the traditionalist views he harbors is to be enunciated.

Under clause 35 of the FPZAI rules an 80% majority is required to overule the chairman’s veto. This makes it virtually impossible to reverse the decision to halt discussions. Such draconian legislation smacks of insecurity. As it is the all-India body has been reduced to a rubber stamp for WAPIZ.

The FPZAI decision to intervene in the Calcutta Originating Summons filed by Prochy Mehta and her daughter Sanaya Mehta Vyas further strained the relations between the four.

Bhathena seldom engages in public discourses and Randeria is exercising caution stating he does not want to hamper the charitable work of the BPP. But the emails show Randeria supporting the lowering of services charges against Desai’s wishes. That crisis may have blown over but the distrust persists. On August 30 at 10.19 p.m. Desai emailed Dadrawala: "The alliance is over," to which Dadrawala responded at 11.02 p.m. "I may have killed the alliance but you are killing the BPP."

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- Roda Dara Hakim
- 07-Sep-2017


Villoo Poonawalla