The ebullient 90s’ Indian political landscape had a maverick bursting onto the scene: till he came in nobody had quite heard of the position of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and within no time he had become the nemesis of rogue political parties.
Bald, portly but with a personality to send all erring politicos scampering, he was none other than Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan, shortened T N Seshan.
Our entire family shared a common fondness for this man of steel – rare it was in those days and who doesn’t like a man who means business and walks the talk !
Remember buying his book ” A Heartful of Burden” from the Kolkata bookfair of ’96 and finishing off overnight. His one liners: In India the rich gets richer and the poor gets children were the talk of legends – almost every wannabe quoted him everywhere !
The year was ’96. Dad had managed to get passes for Mr Seshan’s speech in the Netaji Indoor stadium in Kolkata. Like two animated kids off we went and remember how Mr Seshan had the pulse of the audience from the word go : “You are unnecessarily trying to increase my height” was how he quipped when a technician came to adjust the microphone !
He held the audience’s attention till the very end like a man possessed and by the time he ended, a tinge of sadness engulfed us: he mentioned about his retirement from office and first time in life I felt sad for somebody who was not related to me !
Hopes soared when we got to know he was running for the position of President but somehow in the quagmire of Indian politics, a genuine gem of a person who could have added a lot of meat and mettle to the position lost out.
T N Seshan, my hero, went into a self imposed exile from public life, never to be seen again.
As more than two decades have passed since the gentle Colossus faded into Oblivion, an oft repeated question overcasts my mind: Did Indian politics miss out or was Mr Seshan too ahead of his times ? Probably Mr Seshan’s post beauracratic life resonates well with Chanakya’s famous lines: Straight trees are cut first.
A political ecosystem steeped in corruption and graft in the 90’s never allowed a man like Mr Seshan to enter the system and do some house-keeping !
Though Indian Constitution set up missed out, bureaucracy got richer like anything under the presence of Mr Seshan. Holding several key and coveted positions, the icing on the cake was his role as the CEC. Though the Supreme Court did bring in the rule of three CEC’s towards the end of his term in office to clip his wings, for India’s highest Court to conceive of such a drastic step, speaks amply about the clout and influence handled by the man.
Mr Seshan did clean up Indian elections like a vacuum cleaner: brought in voter ID’s to sieve real voters from fake ones, implemented model code of conduct on political parties, appointed special election observers for all parts of the country, put a cap on election spending, curbed executive influences on the electorate (via bribing, intemidation and liquor distribution) : measures which went a long way towards ensuring the best of environments for exercising the highest duty of an electorate – voting !
As Mr.Seshan demits this world, a grateful nation bids a tearful farewell, lamenting if only he could have been our President ! Aum Shanti…
Author’s Brief – Devamalya De (Dev)
A Civil Engineer and Project Manager by professional, Dev shuttles between Mumbai and Bahrain. A voracious reader and an occasional writer, Dev has published write-ups for several web portals (DBpost and Mynation.com) besides being a published co-author for Amazon.com listed best seller : Living a Wealthy Life. He also maintains several FB pages with curated content besides his own page for short stories: Stories123