T N Seshan
Chief Election Commissioner
Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan (born in Tirunellai in Palakkad district, Kerala) was the 10th Chief Election Commissioner of India, serving from December 12, 1990 to December 11, 1996. His firebrand leadership qualities earned him very creative sobriquets like 'Alsatian' (rhyming on his last name), by the Indian press.
An officer of the Indian Administrative Service, he also held the posts of director, Ministry of Atomic Energy; joint secretary, Ministry of Space; secretary, Department of Agriculture; Government of Tamil Nadu; Member (Personnel), Oil & Natural Gas Commission, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Space, Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Defence, and secretary, Internal Security.
He went on to occupy the post of Cabinet Secretary - the seniormost position in the Indian Civil Service hierarchy, and member, Planning Commission of India, before being appointed the Chief Election Commissioner.
As the Chief Election Commissioner of India he made history by introducing innovative electoral reforms and making the Election Commission a powerful body. He may be rightfully termed as the most visible and controversial public figure who redefined the status and visibility of a CEC in India. His name became synonymous with transparency, efficiency and forward vision during his tenure as the CEC. He used this to hone his political ambitions by contesting for the post of President of India in 1997 (though he lost it to K.R. Narayanan). He came up with the vision of an election-card for every rightful voter in India, something that is being regarded as the Indian equivalent of the US Social Security card.
He is often known for his crisp one-liners, be it during his service to his superiors and ministers or while handling the media. He won the prestigious Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 1996.
He was not without controversy, however. In January 1994, he used a Reliance aircraft to attend a religious function in Kancheepuram. This was the time when Mr. Seshan had cast himself in the role of a man out to clean the corrupt stables of Indian politics. Caught in the glare of unhelpful public attention, he demonstratively wrote out a cheque for Rs. 95,000.
After retirement he founded the Deshbhakt Trust, an NGO forum for like minded citizens concerned with social reforms in India. He is a Hindu Iyer Tamil Brahmin born in Palakkad and studied at the Govt. Victoria College there. His mother tongue is Tamil.