BPP chairman Yazdi Desai (right) nominated, then withdrew support for ex-trustee Dinshaw Tamboly without informing fellow members; mid-day’s report on May 9
BPP chairman Yazdi Desai (right) nominated, then withdrew support for ex-trustee Dinshaw Tamboly without informing fellow members; mid-day’s report on May 9

Murmurs of dissent have been growing in the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) since chairman Yazdi Desai's decision to withdraw support to ex-trustee Dinshaw Tamboly as the Parsi representative to the National Commission for Minorities (NCM).

Many trustees are miffed over not being formally consulted, either before Tamboly's nomination or prior to withdrawal of support.

Since the board makes decisions through a majority vote, this discord within the ranks could change the dynamics in the BPP board. What was earlier two factions - with trustees Armaity Tirandaz and Viraf Mehta on one side, and Noshir Dadrawala, Kersi Randeria, Zarir Bhathena and Desai on the other - could now split into three.

'Recall withdrawal'
"The nomination for the NCM was never on BPP's agenda," said trustee and Desai 'faithful' Dadrawala. "I was asked if I supported Tamboly's recommendation weeks ago and I agreed, as he would make the right fit."

According to Dadrawala, when Desai withdrew his support in a letter to Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi earlier this month, Tamboly was boarding a flight to Iran. "I was pretty upset when I heard about the withdrawal. It's very embarrassing to first nominate someone and then withdraw it. Support for Tamboly was withdrawn without our knowledge."

Pointing out that even though Tamboly and he share religious views that are poles apart, he still endorsed the recommendation "a 100 per cent". "He is a worthy candidate who has done some phenomenal social work. This issue (withdrawal of the nomination) needs to be resolved amicably and the chairman owes an apology to Tamboly. The only way to salvage the situation is through a withdrawal of the withdrawal."

Vote would go against Tamboly
Randeria, another board member and Desai loyal, too, was upset at not being kept in the loop about the withdrawal. "The idea to nominate Tamboly was not brought up at a BPP meeting," he said.

"When Desai withdrew his support, he did it without consulting anyone on the board. He could have put the support withdrawal to a vote, and we could have lost gracefully even though, in all probability, the votes would have tied at 3:3."

Elaborating on this, Randeria added that while he, Dadrawala, and Bhathena stood firmly on their decision to recommend Tamboly, the other three members (Desai, Tirandaz, and Mehta) would vote against it. "It is safe to say that three out of six trustees stand in favour of Tamboly. However, if this were put to a vote, it would go against Tamboly as the chairman has a 'casting' vote. It means, in case of a tie, the decision would go the way he has voted. We still genuinely believe that Tamboly is the right man for the job."

Dadrawala asserted he would still support Tamboly in a vote.

Despite repeated attempts, Bhathena was not available for comment.

On same side, for a change
Found usually in opposite corners of the ring, the Tirandaz-Mehta faction, which considers itself the orthodox arm of the BPP, agreed that even though Tamboly had done "a great deal of good" for the community, they would not support his recommendation if put to a vote.

Tirandaz confirmed that when the recommendation was made, she was not kept in the loop.

"It was only at the federation meeting [of the All-India Anjumans] that I learnt that the chairman had already made a recommendation on behalf of the board... The subject was not discussed at any of the BPP meetings. Tamboly is doing commendable work, but our views on religious issues differ vastly."

Viraf, current BPP trustee and son of former chairman Dinshaw Mehta, also felt that if things were put to a vote, the result would be 3:3, but the 'no' side would win by virtue of Desai's casting vote. "Tirandaz, Bhathena and I were not informed of the nomination until the federation meeting," he said.

Justifying his stand, he added, "He (Tamboly) is a brilliant social worker, but on matters of religion, the community at large is orthodox, and so am I. Desai has not only made a mockery of himself, but has also put all BPP trustees in a spot. We are left at a crossroad, where one half of the board endorses Tamboly, and the other half doesn't."