Today, if elections can be held in a fair and free environment in the country, the credit goes to TN Sheshan. He died on November 10, 2019. TN Sheshan, who made his mark as the domineering Election Commissioner of the country, was also the father of reform in the bureaucracy. He also used to knock many due to honesty and his loyalty to the law. Because of this, his opponents used to call him cynical and even dictator. But he was a man of revolution in the system, hardworking, competent administrator, qualified bureaucrat, intellectuals and middle class hero. He knows about his work for electoral reforms, but many things about his life are not known to people yet. Let us tell you about some such aspects of his life today.
TN Sheshan was born on December 15, 1932 in a Brahmin family in Palakkad (Kerala). He did his schooling from Basel Evangelical Mission Higher Secondary School and Intermediate Government at Victoria College, Palakkad. He graduated in physics from Madras Christian College. He completed the four-year course in three years. He also got a master’s degree.
Career in Administrative Services of a Scientist
In the early 60s, job opportunities for scientists were rare. Because of this, he started teaching at Madras Christian College from 1952 itself. There he taught for three years but due to low salary, he also left. He continued to prepare for the Indian Administrative Service while teaching at Madras Christian College. In 1953, he topped the Police Service Examination and cleared the examination for the Indian Administrative Service in 1954. In 1955, he started his career as a trainee in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).
The domineering administrators proved in the beginning
Seshan was first posted as Sub Collector at Dindigul in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu. There he also handled charges outside the jurisdiction of the Sub Collector. In the early days of his posting, he created his image of a strong administrator. The story goes something like this. A man from the Harijan community was married to the local president of the Congress party. Harijan was accused of fund bungling which was arrested by TN Sheshan. A few days after his arrest, a minister visited the area. He demanded Sheshan to release Harijan and pressurized him. But TN did not bow down to pressure from the Minister of Session and did not release the accused.
Unfortunate event that proved beneficial for them
In 1962, he got into a fight with a senior, due to which he was transferred from the secretariat. From there, she was sent to the Department of Small Savings Program, Backward Classes Welfare and Women Welfare. He was eventually made the city’s transport director. Talk of his honesty and devotion to the state’s then Industries and Transport Minister Ramaswamy Venkataraman. Venkataraman asked him to handle the public bus system in the crowded city. Seshan describes this incident as very beneficial for himself. He said that he got a chance to handle different types of people there, which came in handy in his future career.
Delhi transfer and proximity to Rajiv Gandhi
Seshan got into a fight with the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after which he moved to Delhi and was appointed as a member of the Oil and Natural Gas Commission. He held this position for the next two years. After this, he was appointed as Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Space and served in this department from 1980 to 1985. Then at the insistence of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, he became the Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. He held this post from 1985 to 1988. During this time, he grew closer to Rajiv Gandhi. From there he was made the Secretary of Internal Security, a post he held until 1989. His proximity to Rajiv Gandhi shows that he was made Cabinet Secretary 10 months after his appointment as Secretary in the Ministry of Defense. When Rajiv Gandhi lost the election in December 1989 and no longer the Prime Minister, TN Sheshan was transferred to the Planning Commission.
Became Chief Election Commissioner
Subramanian Swamy was the law minister in Prime Minister Chandrasekhar’s government who was his friend. Subramanian Swamy offered the post of Chief Election Commissioner to Seshan. He initially wanted to decline the offer but first consulted Rajiv Gandhi, then consulted the then President R. Venkataraman, his elder brother and his father-in-law. He then accepted the offer and took charge of the country’s Chief Election Commissioner in December 1990. After this, the reforms in the country’s electoral system made his name immortal in history. His electoral reforms are something like this.