T. N. Seshan

Jump to navigation Jump to search

T. N. Seshan
T.N. Seshan in 1994.jpg
10th Chief Election Commissioner of India
In office
12 December 1990 – 11 December 1996
Prime MinisterChandra Shekhar
P. V. Narasimha Rao
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
H. D. Deve Gowda
Preceded byV. S. Ramadevi
Succeeded byM. S. Gill
18th Cabinet Secretary of India
In office
27 March 1989 – 23 December 1989
Prime MinisterRajiv Gandhi
Preceded byB. G. Deshmukh
Succeeded byV. C. Pande
Personal details
Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan

(1932-12-15)15 December 1932
Palghat, Malabar District, British India
(present-day Kerala, India)
Died10 November 2019(2019-11-10) (aged 86)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Jayalakshmi Seshan
(m. 1959; died 2018)
Alma materMadras Christian College
Harvard University
AwardsRamon Magsaysay award (1996)

Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan (15 December 1932 – 10 November 2019) was an Indian civil servant and bureaucrat who served with the Indian Administrative Service. After serving in various positions in Madras and in various ministries of the Central Government, he served as the 18th Cabinet Secretary of India in 1989. He was appointed the 10th Chief Election Commissioner of India (1990–96) and became known for his electoral reforms. He won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service in 1996.

Early life and education[edit]

Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan was born[1] on 15 December 1932 in Thirunellai Village in Palghat, Kerala.[2][3] He was youngest of six siblings and his father was a lawyer in a district court.[4] He completed his schooling from Basel Evangelical Mission Higher Secondary School and intermediate from Government Victoria College, Palakkad where he was a contemporary of E. Sreedharan. Though both of them were selected for Engineering in JNTU Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, T. N. Seshan decided to join Madras Christian College (MCC).[5] He obtained his Bachelor of Science (Honors) degree in physics from the Madras Christian College and later taught there from 1950 to 1952. In 1953, he had left Madras Christian College and cleared the police service examination but did not join. He cleared the UPSC civil services examination in 1954 and joined the IAS as a trainee of 1955 Tamil Nadu cadre.[6][3][7][2]


Seshan was appointed an apprentice administrator, as an assistant collector, for a year at Coimbatore, as a trainee of the Academy of Administration in Delhi. He was first appointed sub-collector in Dindigul.[2] He moved to the Secretariat for Rural Development in Madras (now Chennai) and appointed director of programs and deputy secretary, where he managed a local administration programme for panchayats, from 1958 to 1962.[2]

In 1962, he was appointed as the director of transport of Madras (now Tamil Nadu).[2][4] In 1964, he was appointed collector of Madurai district. After two and a half years, he went to study at Harvard University on Edward S. Mason Fellowship where he earned a master's degree in public administration in 1968.[2] At Harvard, he developed a connection with Subramanian Swamy who was his associate professor.[8][9]

After his return in 1969, he was appointed as secretary to the Atomic Energy Commission. From 1972 to 1976, he served as joint secretary at the Department of Space.[2] In 1976, he returned to Tamil Nadu and was appointed the state's secretary of industries and of agriculture for a brief period. After differences with the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, he resigned and moved to Delhi where he was appointed as a member of the Oil and Natural Gas Commission and was in charge of personnel. After two years, he served as additional secretary to the Department of Space from 1980 to 1985. Later he became secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests from 1985 to 1988. He opposed the Tehri dam and Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river during his stint but was overruled. He was later given the additional position of secretary of Internal Security which he served until 1989. In 1988, he served secretary of the Ministry of Defence for ten months.[2] He was appointed 18th Cabinet Secretary, the senior-most position in the Indian civil service hierarchy, in 1989[6] and later served as a member of Planning Commission.[3][2]

He was appointed as the 10th Chief Election Commissioner and served from 12 December 1990 to 11 December 1996.[6][10][11] According to interview given by him to Business Standard, Law Minister Subramanian Swamy played a vital role in this appointment.[9][12] He became best known for his electoral reforms. He redefined the status and visibility of the Election Commission of India.[13][14] He identified more than hundred electoral malpractices and reformed the election process.[4][11][15][16][17][18] Some of reforms he implemented include enforcement of election code of conduct, Voter IDs for all eligible voters, limit on election candidates' expenditure,[4][19] appointing election officials from states other than the one facing polls.[20] He curbed several malpractices like bribing or intimidating voters, distribution of liquor during elections, use of government funds and 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.[21]

During the 1999 Indian general elections, due to his reforms, 1488 candidates were disqualified for three years for failing to submit their expenditure accounts. It was reported that he reviewed more than 40,000 expenditure accounts and disqualified 14,000 candidates for false information. In 1992, the Election Commission canceled elections in Bihar and Punjab due to electoral issues.[4]

Later life[edit]

After retirement as the CEC, he contested the 1997 Indian presidential election and lost to K.R. Narayanan.[22] He taught leadership at the Great Lakes Institute of Management in Chennai and had briefly taught at the LBSNAA, Musoorie.[4] In 2012, the Madras High Court appointed him as an interim administrator to run the Pachaiyappa's Trust in Chennai.[23]

He died at his home in Chennai on 10 November 2019.[6][24] He fought on a Congress ticket against BJP'S veteran Lal Krishna Advani in 1999 from Gandhinagar and lost.[25] He praised the policies of Rajiv Gandhi.[citation needed]


He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service in 1996.[2]

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Jayalakshmi Seshan from 1959 until her death in March 2018. They did not have any children.[3][2] He knew several languages including Tamil, Malayalam, Sanskrit, English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi and Gujarati.[2]


  • 1995: The Degeneration of India, Viking, ISBN 978-0670864508
  • 1995: A Heart Full of Burden, UBS Publishers, ISBN 978-8174760272


  1. ^ "ASIA : Film-Star Famous, Indian Reformer Is Facing a Fall : The public loves crusading election official T.N. Seshan. But his imperious ways have irked the ruling party". Los Angeles Times. 11 June 1994. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Evangelista, Oscar L. (1990). "The 1996 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service: Biography for Tirunellai N. Seshan". Archived from the original on 28 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d "TN Seshan death: TN Seshan, former CEC who tamed politicians, dies at 86". The Times of India. 11 November 2019. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Narasimhan, T. E. (12 May 2012). "T N Seshan, the man who helped clean up India's elections". Business Standard India. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  5. ^ "Man of Tomorrow". The Hindu Newspaper.
  6. ^ a b c d "T N Seshan, former chief election commissioner, passes away | India News". The Times of India.
  7. ^ Das, Sanjib Kumar (1 May 2014). "The man who cleaned up India's elections". Gulf News. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  8. ^ CHARU LATA JOSHI (15 December 1994). "I don't hate politicians. I hate bad politics: T.N. Seshan". India Today. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  9. ^ a b Narasimhan, T. E. (12 May 2012). "T N Seshan, the man who helped clean up India's elections". Business Standard India. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  10. ^ Narasimhan, T. E. (12 May 2012). "The more you kick me..." Business Standard. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  11. ^ a b Srivastava, Ritesh K.(The Observer) (5 March 2012). "Empowering the EC". Zee News. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  12. ^ "T. N. Seshan, the Unyielding Force That Cleansed India's Elections". The Wire. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  13. ^ "Election Commission's neutrality: Will Zaidi fit in Seshan's shoes?". The Times of India.
  14. ^ Anand, R. K. (20 June 2012). "Time to 'Seshan' the EC". Suara Sarawak. (Baru Bian, Malaysia). Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ McGirk, Tim (28 April 1996). "India's scourge of money, muscle and ministers". The Independent (U.K.). Archived from the original on 26 May 2022. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  17. ^ Kaw, M K. "Seshan the Alsatian". GFiles-Inside the Government. Archived from the original on 20 August 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  18. ^ Shekhar, G. C. (7 April 2014). "Autumn of Al-Seshan". The Telegraph (Calcutta). Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  19. ^ Verma, Nalin (1 December 2012). "Minds unite in crisis times". The Telegraph (Calcutta). Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ "CEC T.N. Seshan tightens electoral reform screws to clean up entire election process". India Today Portal. 15 December 1994.
  22. ^ Sardesai, Rajdeep (5 October 2012). "Will Arvind Kejriwal succeed where TN Seshan failed?". News18. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  23. ^ "Seshan to take care of Pachaiyappa's trust". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  24. ^ "Former Election Commissioner TN Seshan dies at 87". India Today. 10 November 2019. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  25. ^ "Gandhinagar likely to witness one-sided battle". Hindustan Times. 6 April 2004. Retrieved 24 April 2022.

External References[edit]