T. N. Seshan

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T. N. Seshan
T.N. Seshan in 1994.jpg
10th Chief Election Commissioner of India
In office
December 12, 1990 – December 11, 1996
Prime Minister V. P. Singh
Chandra Shekhar
P.V. Narasimha Rao
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
H.D. Deve Gowda
Preceded by V. S. Ramadevi
Succeeded by M. S. Gill
18th Cabinet Secretary
In office
27 March 1989 – 23 December 1989
Preceded by B.G.Deshmukh
Succeeded by V. C. Pande
Personal details
Born Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan
(1932-12-15) 15 December 1932 (age 84)
Palakkad, Malabar District, Madras Presidency, British India
Alma mater Madras Christian College
Harvard University
Awards Ramon Magsaysay award, 1996

Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan known as T.N. Seshan is best remembered as the man who cleaned up elections in India.[1][2] He was the Chief Election Commissioner of India (1990–96), who reformed elections by largely ending its malpractices in the country.[3] and redefined the status and visibility of the Election Commission of India.[4][5] An Indian Administrative Service officer, he earlier served as the 18th Cabinet Secretary in 1989. He won the Magsaysay award for government service in 1996.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan was born on 15 December 1932 in a Tamil family which had migrated from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu and settled in Thirunellai, Palakkad district, Kerala. He completed his schooling from Basel Evangelical Mission Higher Secondary School and intermediate from Government Victoria College, Palakkad. He obtained his graduation from the Madras Christian College. He then went to study at Harvard University on Edward S. Mason Fellowship where he earned a master's degree in public administration. (Class of 1968)


Seshan wanted to join the civil services like his brother T N Lakshminarayanan (who incidentally was among the toppers in the very first batch of Indian Administrative Service (IAS). In 1953, Seshan was under-aged to appear for the IAS. To test his abilities, he sat for the Indian Police Service (for which the age of appearing, then, was only 20) and stood first in India in the 1954 batch. The very next year, he appeared and successfully joined the 1955 batch of IAS, having been placed among the top rankers.

An officer of the IAS, he was Secretary of many departments in the Tamil Nadu and the union governments.

He was Cabinet Secretary, the senior most position in the Indian civil service hierarchy, and Member, Planning Commission of India, before being appointed the Chief Election Commissioner. He contested for the post of President of India in 1997 and lost to K.R. Narayanan.[7] He is often known for his crisp one-liners, be it during his service to his superiors and ministers or while facing the media.

On 17th Oct 2012, The Madras High Court appointed T.N Seshan as an interim administrator to run the Pachaiyappa’s Trust in Chennai [8]

Chief Election Commissioner[edit]

As the 10th Chief Election Commissioner of India, T.N. Seshan's name became synonymous with transparency and efficiency[3] when he managed to stamp his authority on the country's electoral system by conducting the cleanest elections in living memory. "Nobody dared to violate the law."[9][10] Poll changes ushered in by him would often pit the political class and their media cronies not just against each other, but also against him, the election watchdog, getting labelled, in turn as - "Al-Seshan (Alsatian)"[11][12] so much so, that electoral 'battles' would be dubbed by them as:[13]

"Seshan versus Nation"

Major achievements[edit]

Implementation of the law in election process :

  • Instrumental in strict implementation election code of conduct
  • Issuance of Voter IDs for all eligible voters
  • Limit on candidates expenditure in his/her election
  • Progressive and autonomous Election commission machinery. Drafted election officials from states other than the one facing polls.[14]

Elimination of several malpractices like :[15]

  • Bribing or intimidating voters
  • Distribution of liquor during elections.
  • Use of official machinery for campaigning.
  • Appealing to voters' caste or communal feelings.
  • Use of places of worship for campaigns.
  • Use of loudspeakers and high volume music without prior written permission.


  1. ^ Das, Sanjib Kumar (1 May 2014). "The man who cleaned up India's elections". Gulf News. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  2. ^ Narasimhan, T. E. (12 May 2012). "'The more you kick me...'". Business Standard. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Srivastava, Ritesh K.(The Observer) (5 March 2012). "Empowering the EC". Zee News. Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "Election Commission's neutrality: Will Zaidi fit in Seshan's shoes?". 
  5. ^ Anand, R. K. (20 June 2012). "Time to 'Seshan' the EC". Suara Sarawak. (Baru Bian, Malaysia). Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation http://www.rmaf.org.ph/index.php?task=4&year=1990
  7. ^ Sardesai, Rajdeep (5 October 2012). "Will Arvind Kejriwal succeed where TN Seshan failed?". News18. Retrieved 2016-08-09. 
  8. ^ Seshan to take care of Pachaiyappa’s trust http://newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/article1303162.ece
  9. ^ Gilmartin, David (North Carolina State Univ.). "'One Day's Sultan': T. N. Seshan and the Reform of the Election Commission in the 1990s". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  10. ^ McGirk, Tim (28 April 1996). "India's scourge of money, muscle and ministers". The Independent (U.K.). Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Kaw, M K. "Seshan the Alsatian". GFiles-Inside the Government. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  12. ^ Shekhar, G. C. (7 April 2014). "Autum of Al-Seshan". The Telegraph (Calcutta). Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  13. ^ Verma, Nalin (1 December 2012). "Minds unite in crisis times". The Telegraph (Calcutta). Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  14. ^ Sumit Ganguly; Rahul Mukherji (1 August 2011). India Since 1980. Cambridge University Press. p. 179. ISBN 978-1-139-49866-1. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  15. ^ "CEC T.N. Seshan tightens electoral reform screws to clean up entire election process". India Today Portal. 15 December 1994. 

External links[edit]