Former Chief Election Commissioner Tirunellai Narayana Seshan, who had become an icon of Indian bureaucracy for ushering in tectonic reforms in the country’s electoral process during his tenure in the nineties, died of a cardiac arrest on Sunday in Chennai. He was 86.
A retired 1955 batch Indian Administrative Service officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre, TN Seshan had led the Election Commission from 1990 to 1996. As the 10th Chief Election Commissioner of India, he is credited with flexing the poll body’s far-reaching constitutional powers to keep politicians in check.
However, seen as too much of a hurdle by the political class, it was during his tenure that two additional Election Commissioners were appointed by the centre to clip his wings.
He had received the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, considered Asia’s Nobel, for his initiatives in making the electoral process more transparent.
Born in 1932 in Kerala’s Palakkad district, the former bureaucrat had joined the civil services in 1955 and served as secretary of several departments in Tamil Nadu and at the centre during his decades-long career.
Before he was appointed as India’s chief election official, he was handpicked by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to be the Cabinet Secretary, the senior most position in the civil services.
In 1997, TN Seshan had unsuccessfully contested the Presidential election against KR Narayanan.