Electoral Reforms In India

T.N. Seshan and his contributions to the Indian electoral system

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ECI

Mains level : TN Seshan and his contributions


T.N. Seshan the election commissioner of India who transformed the way polls were conducted and contested in the country has passed away.

Who was Mr. Seshan?

  • Born on December 15, 1932 in Palakkad, Kerala, Mr. Seshan belonged to the 1955 batch of Tamil Nadu cadre officers of the IAS.
  • An alumnus of the Madras Christian College, he, as an IAS officer, did a year-long course in management at the Harvard University in the 1960s.

Electoral reforms under TN Seshan

Photo Ids

  • N. Seshan, as Chief Election Commissioner during 1990-96, had initiated the process of cleaning up the electoral system.
  • The introduction of electors’ photo identity cards was a measure towards this direction.

A strict disciplinary

  • He was known as a no nonsensical CEC and one who had enforced, in his own way, discipline on political parties and contestants.
  • He did not compromise on his position that every election had to be held in accordance with the model code of conduct and electoral laws.
  • Some of his big achievements include implementation of the election process and the Model Code of Conduct, introduction of voter ID cards, enforcing limits on poll expenses, and elimination of several malpractices like distribution of liquor, bribing voters, ban on wall writing, use of loud speakers, use of religion in election speeches etc.

Expansion of EC

  • As part of his variant of electoral reforms, the Election Commission had listed 150 malpractices in the elections.
  • It was during Mr. Seshan’s period that the EC was made a multi-member body in October 1993 with the appointment of M.S. Gill and G.V.G. Krishnamurthy.
  • Though he had opposed the government’s move, the Supreme Court had upheld the government’s decision to appoint Election Commissioners.

Other works

  • During his term, Seshan witnessed the implementation of Mandal Commission, giving reservation to other backward classes (OBCs) in government jobs.
  • These developments dominated politics and elections in India for nearly a decade.

Magsaysay award

  • Briefly in the mid-1990s, Mr. Seshan became an icon of the middle class as he was seen as a crusader against corruption and electoral malpractices.
  • His work was recognised internationally when he was given the Ramon Magsaysay award for 1996.
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