Former Chief Election Commissioner of India, TN Seshan breathed his last in Chennai on Sunday, 10th November following a cardiac arrest. He was 86 years old.
Born in the Palakkad district of Kerala, Seshan was an IAS officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre. He held the top positions of the Cabinet Secretary of India and the administrative head of ISRO before being appointed as the CEC in 1990.
At a time when the Indian electoral system wasn't doing great, he earned the reputation of bringing in pathbreaking reforms.
Before he took over as the CEC, it was quite normal for political parties to ferry people to the polling booths. But, he ensured that the model code of conduct was enforced seriously.
He played a crucial role in transforming the Indian democracy. With the enforcement of the model code of conduct, Seshan helped fight the evils of booth capturing and bogus voting, that had been plaguing the Indian electoral system.
Seshan's stint as the CEC was also important because that was the phase when Indian politics was undergoing a major change. Coalition governments were coming into the picture and this required strict rules and regulations.
He was the one who courageously brought the much-needed discipline in the electoral system of India during that time.
Some of the most popular reforms introduced by him include, introduction of voter ID cards and enforcing limits on poll expenses. He also introduced the concept of election observers to ensure free and fair polls in the country.
His personality was such that even the politicians feared and respected him. This was because he wielded a big stick while enforcing the electoral reforms in both, letter and spirit.
He was also awarded with the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1996 for playing a crucial role in transforming the Indian democracy. In his acceptance speech, he said:
I deemed this award a tribute to the process of democracy throughout the free world, to the wisdom of millions of India’s electorate not always necessarily formally educated, to the millions of Indian voters who have overcome disabilities of economic status, social disability, poverty, and prejudice to walk into the ballot booth and use that little marking stamp to decidedly say who they want to rule over them.
A mentor and icon for every administrator in India, he was also a torchbearer for all other election commissioners who succeeded him.
Remembering the bold administrator, SY Quraishi, Former CEC of India, wrote for Indian Express:
I have no hesitation in saying that all of his successor CECs basked in his glory, though we always carried the burden of being compared with him all the time.
After his demise, people from all walks of life remembered him for being the courageous personality that he was.
Shri TN Seshan was an outstanding civil servant. He served India with utmost diligence and integrity. His efforts towards electoral reforms have made our democracy stronger and more participative. Pained by his demise. Om Shanti.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 10, 2019
TN Seshan will be remembered as an embodiment of courage & conviction. It was he who brought the powerful role of the “Election Commission” into the drawing room discussion of the Common Man.— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) November 11, 2019
Unlike today, there was a time when our Election Commissioners were impartial, respected, brave & feared. Shri #TNSeshan was one of them. My condolences to his family on his passing.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) November 11, 2019
Sad to announce that Shri TN Seshan passed away a short while ago. He was a true legend and a guiding force for all his successors. I pray for peace to his soul.— Dr. S.Y. Quraishi (@DrSYQuraishi) November 10, 2019
#TNSeshan we shall miss u. You were our mentor. An icon. We drew inspiration from you. You were iron willed. And clear headed. You were a performer and a doer.— Kiran Bedi (@thekiranbedi) November 11, 2019
You were rare. And perhaps still... pic.twitter.com/6i6A9q9F0z
With his demise, the nation has lost a highly educated and rare personality. India hasn't had any other administrator like him, but we hope that we get to see his successors follow the path carved by him.