Former Chief Election Commissioner TN Seshan passes away

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Updated: November 11, 2019 5:58 AM

Former Chief Election Commissioner T N Seshan passed away on Sunday night at 9:30 pm at his home in Chennai. He was 86.

tn seshan age, tn seshan ias, tn seshan aliveChief Election Commissioner TN Seshan addressing Rotary Club members on 21.10.93. (Express archive photo by RK Dayal)

Former CEC TN Seshan passes away: Former Chief Election Commissioner Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan passed away after a cardiac arrest on Sunday at his home in Chennai. The legendary TN Seshan was not keeping good health for the past couple of years and he passed away at about 9.30 pm Sunday night. He was 86.

Seshan, a retired 1955 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre, was appointed the 10th Chief Election Commissioner on December 12, 1990 and served till December 11, 1996. He became an icon in the bureaucracy after he ushered game-changing electoral reforms that changed the face of the election process in India in the 1990s.

Seshan led a slew of initiatives some of which invited the wrath of parties including the deployment of election observers for fair play, fixing election schedules in a staggered fashion, helping station security forces and ruling out then-infamous “booth capturing,” especially in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. He was bold enough to cancel elections in Punjab in 1991 to see that the poll process was not vitiated by violence. In 1993, the government made the Election Commission a three-member body and appointed two more commissioners and it was then perceived as an attempt to rein in the unpredictable Seshan.

Condoling his demise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter, “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.”

Former CEC SY Quraishi took to Twitter to condole his death. “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,” he said.

Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa said the passing away of Seshan “marks the end of an era”. “He upheld the dignity of his office & earned respect by his fierce independence & effective functioning. A goalpost for his successors, he continues to be a benchmark for the constitutional framework of a thriving democracy.”

In his illustrious career, Seshan also served as the 18th Cabinet Secretary of India in 1989. He had also won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for his services to the government in 1996.

Born in December 1932 in Thirunellai in Palakkad district in Kerala, TN Seshan was a graduate in Physics and worked for three years as a demonstrator at the Madras Christian College when he passed the IAS exam. Interestingly, T N Seshan and E Sreedharan, popularly known as the “Metro Man”, were classmates at BEM High School and Victoria College in Palakkad.

TN Seshan also went to study at Harvard University on Edward S Mason Fellowship where he earned a master’s degree in public administration.

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