gfiles magazine

April 9, 2012

Seshan the Alsatian

Seshan the Alsatian
Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan has a gargantuan name that matches his over-bearing ego. He is a Tamil-speaking Brahmin from Palghat. With Brahmins losing their traditional vocations, they have chosen to excel in four fields — as civil servants, musicians, cooks and crooks — in Seshan’s telling phrase.
Seshan had a remarkable career in the bureaucracy. He held important offices, including the coveted post of Cabinet Secretary (although for a few months only). People who knew Seshan of those days summed up his character in one pithy sentence: “He growled at his subordinates and purred at his superiors”. His bosses, both bureaucratic and political, thought of him as a cuddly little poodle, from one whom they could entice a smile, by the elementary device of scratching below his ears.
An officer who had worked with him and suffered his virulent tongue-lashing remembers his behaviour as Secretary (Internal Security). “He did not conduct himself like a dignified Secretary to the Government of India,” the officer recalled. “He looked more like Rajiv Gandhi’s personal security officer, opening and closing doors for him like a portly peon.”
He would have gone home but for the highly unlikely Prime Ministership of the young Turk Chandrashekhar that lasted only three months and the Law Ministership of the maverick Subramaniam Swamy who was a personal friend. When Seshan realised that he was on a Constitutional post where his chair was safe for six years and that he was answerable to no one, he suddenly got transformed into an Alsatian (Al-Seshan). Those were early days for organisations bearing a name with the prefix El- or Al-, like Al-Qaeda. Today, we have got habituated to such sinister names..
The Al-Seshan started his career as the Chief Election Commissioner with a flourish. He forbade the reading of books and magazines by his staff in the library. He ruled that officials placed at his disposal were for the period of their deputation under his administrative and disciplinary control. He could transfer them, suspend them and do anything he liked with them.
He said that no one could disfigure a wall with election posters and slogans. He said that he could deploy police force in a State according to his assessment of need, whether the State Government asked for it or not. He said he would monitor every little bit of expenditure incurred by candidates and deployed Income-Tax Com-missioners to monitor compliance of his instructions......READMORE :

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