T N Sheshan: The man who showed us the beauty of democracy

T N Sheshan is no more. He passed away at his residence in Chennai on Sunday at the age of 86.

Now, condolences are pouring from the high and the mighty. The media and leaders are counting his merits.

But, none of them thought aobut it when he had a quiet retired life after a tumultuous career, annexing with that of Chief Election Commissioner that made a tectonic shift in the way that India celebrated elections.

Very few few remembered him all these years after the end of his tenure in 1996. It was said he still could do many more things for India, but none bothered. Or perhaps, those who mattered were scared. Because, those in power were the most relieved when he stepped down the aisles of bureaucracy.

In 1997, TN Seshan had unsuccessfully contested the Presidential election against KR Narayanan. After that we seldom heard about him.

Tirunellai Narayana Seshan, a 1955 batch IAS officer, had proven many things all throughout his life, whether as a junior officer or as the CEC or even as a student who secured ranks in all his exams.

He will be remembered for his far-reaching contributions to the electoral politics and procedures in the country. He made sure that elections were no more mockery of democracy. He showed the politicians the extent of constitutional powers and even then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao could do little to boss him. Finally Rao appointed two more Election Commissioners to clip his wings. We first heard of Model Code of Conduct, we learnt about the identity cards, we wondered how CEC could challenge the dictates of political bosses, we realised how money and muscle power could be curtailed, there is a will.

That was his biggest contribution. He could show India that the country can progress and be clean if there is someone with a strong Will. Because, we have enough safeguards in the Constitution, we have more than enough laws to protect us, we have a democracy. But, it all depends on who and how it is handled. The perils are not in the systems but in the people who run it. Sheshan showed it. Till them we enjoyed Democracy in bits and pieces. We took pride about the Constitution now and then. But Sheshan exposed the beauty of Democracy in fullness. He taught us the greatness of the Constitution like never before.

But unfortunately, we did not want him further. We did not utilise his ability. We did not want to clean the system more. Because, many had decided by then, enough is enough and let him be silent.

And now he fell silent for ever.





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