A senior bureaucrat’s vision and actions in cleaning up our electoral process gave India’s democracy its vibrant image. As Joseph Stalin had once said, “It’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes.” Tirunelli Narayanaiyer Seshan established not only the credibility of the counting but also of the entire electoral process.
Things may have changed of late as pliable chief election commissioners seem to have regained the tendency to favour ruling party honchos as they are invested with the power of the people's vote. It was the administrator with a booming “bark”, that brought him the honorific of “Alsatian”, who reestablished the integrity of the election process and propelled it towards the full EVM era. If doubts linger in India’s poll process, it is beyond the efforts of men like Sukumar, Seshan and Lyndgoh, who lent the Election Commission its true stature and authority.
Major parties still dominate the national scene with their financial reach and clout, but they are subject to what controls the poll panel can bring to bear in fighting trends like cash-for-votes. If booth-capturing through muscle power and illegal canvassing of votes for candidates were scotched a while ago, the credit goes to Seshan.
The ideal of a fair and neutral umpire overseeing polls was best served by Seshan and others who redeemed the Election Commission’s authority by asserting its autonomous powers. Seshan stood his ground against powerful chief ministers and leaders who assumed that the popular vote in their favour meant they had sky-high powers.
It’s not that they don’t make civil servants like Seshan any more, it’s just that very few seem to have the moral fibre to assert that, while they serve political masters, they are not their servants....