A bundle of powerful adjectives is what I seek to write this article for only those will do justice to the brave personality that Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan was. An IAS officer of 1955 batch from Tamil Nadu cadre, TN Seshan and his ways tamed politicians – for good – throughout his glorious career of six years (1990-1996) as the Chief Election Commissioner of India.
The 10th EC was among the very few who redefined elections in independent India. A no-nonsense man laid strict rules to be followed during the elections across the country in what-so-ever state or for what so-ever position.
Some of his commandments included no bribing or intimidating voters, no distribution of liquor during the elections, no use of official machinery for campaigning, no appealing to voters’ caste or communal feelings, no use of religious places for campaigns and no use of loudspeakers without prior written permission.
Like a mother, with a stick in hand, he had made his motive clear when it comes to elections and that would invariably be “zero delay and zero deficiency” in what we call the biggest democracy in the world.
If you need to explain the statement “naak mai dum krna,” TN Seshan wouldn’t be a bad choice. Politicians, no matter at what position, would tell you the man of his words he was, besides being gentle from his heart.
In his entire regime as EC, he focused on curtailing booth capturing, muscle power and any other malpractices one could think of to harm a free and fair election. And certainly, he was successful at reforming elections in the country through his strict ways. Declaring dry day 6 days prior to the election was another move that made people hate him, but who cares?
Moreover, locking horns with the politicians came naturally to TN Seshan. S.Y Qureshi, former Chief Election Commission recalls words that he had said in a briefing pre-1996 elections in Bihar “Don’t worry. Nothing will happen — except a bomb on your face and a bullet through your stomach”.
One of the other incidents that underline the fairness he is known for is publicly denounced Welfare Minister Sitaram Kesari and Food Minister Kalpnath Rai for luring the voters that sent shockwaves in the political word.
Born on December 15, 1932, in Palakkad, Seshan was the master of his art who has left an unfillable void in the country.