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Obituary – A no-nonsense man, TN Seshan cleaned up India’s electoral system

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TN Seshan CEC

T.N. Seshan brought back faith in the Indian electoral system at a time when Indian elections were synonymous with booth rigging and misuse of government machinery.

The no-nonsense Seshan, an IAS officer of 1955 batch from Tamil Nadu cadre, managed to stamp his authority on the country’s electoral system during his term as the country’s 10th Chief Election Commissioner from 1990 to 1996.

His strict commandments were: no bribing or intimidating voters, no distribution of liquor during the elections, no use of official machinery for campaigning, no appealing to voters’ caste or communal feelings, no use of religious places for campaigns and no use of loudspeakers without prior written permission.

He also enforced the Model Code of Conduct, strictly monitored limits on poll expenses, and cracked down on several malpractices like wall graffiti. The issuance of Voter IDs for all eligible voters came into being under his strict watch.

While he endeared himself to the citizens by cleaning up the elections of the blatant manipulative tactics employed by political leaders, in the process he also ended up offending politicians with his iron-clad instructions.

Appointed by Prime Minister Chandrashekhar as the Chief Election Commissioner of India, Seshan would always be remembered as a shining example of what a CEC should be.

He had earlier served as the 18th Cabinet Secretary of India in 1989. In 1996, he won the Ramon Magsaysay Award. Seshan even contested for the post of President of India in 1997 and lost to K.R. Narayanan.

Born on December 15, 1932 in Palakkad, in then Madras Presidency, now in Kerala, his full name was Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan.

Seshan, who passed away on Sunday, at the age of 86 at his residence in Chennai, had once told an interviewer. “I had never conducted an election. I went with two principles: zero delay and zero deficiency.”

His wielding the big stick worked. In the 1994 elections, in Karnataka’s Gulbarga district, more than 20 cases were registered against candidates for not filing daily expenditure reports.

In another place, three officers were suspended for covertly aligning with candidates. In all constituencies, candidates had to furnish lists of vehicles used for electioneering and the returning officers had to check the meter readings to tally these with the daily expenditure statements.

He would stagger the voting to deploy additional forces which reduced the risks of booth capturing and violence near polling booths.

Under his strict watch, in the 1993 elections, in Uttar Pradesh, booth capturing count fell to 255 – from 873 in 1991. The number of polling day killings also fell from 36 to three. The number of constituencies in which polling had to be suspended or deferred, also dipped to three compared to the previous 17.

Money and muscle power were not the only things that Seshan tried to curtail. In all states, dry days were declared six days before polling.

In the 1994 assembly elections to four states, he deployed 150 election observers to ensure that rules were adhered to strictly. He also deployed 120 audit observers in Andhra, 116 in Karnataka, 60 in Sikkim and 40 in Goa to monitor the election expenses of each candidate.

In the 1996 general elections, the Election Commission deployed 1,500 observers – of three per constituency – for monitoring the elections. Polling stations were run by around 1.5 million state employees, while over 600,000 security personnel were deployed. Some 300,000 people were placed in preventive detention, including 125,000 in Uttar Pradesh, and 59,000 in Madhya Pradesh, where 87,000 firearms were also seized, according to reports.

In 1994, in a move that sent shockwaves through the political establishment, he denounced the then Welfare Minister Sitaram Kesari and Food Minister Kalpnath Rai for attempting to influence voters, and asked the then PM to remove the two from office. There was talk at the time whether the CEC had overstepped his brief by offering such unsolicited advice to the government.

He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award in 1996 for “his resolute actions to bring order, fairness, and integrity to elections in India, the world’s largest democracy. In asserting the authority and independence of the Election Commission, Seshan locked horns with India’s Supreme Court and has feuded bitterly with the country’s politicians, leading to more than one attempt to impeach him.”

Interestingly, both Seshan and E. Sreedharan, former DMRC chief who is popularly known as the Metro Man, were classmates at BEM High School and Victoria College in Palakkad.

Both were eligible to study engineering in Kakinada (Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University). While Sreedharan decided to go ahead, Seshan decided to join MCC (Madras Christian College).

He later went to study at Harvard University on Edward S. Mason Fellowship where he earned a master’s degree in public administration.

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Rahul Gandhi returning to lead Congress again?

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scindia rahul gandhi priyanka gandhi

New Delhi/Wayanad (Kerala), Dec 6 : Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi is all set to return to lead the party and is likely to take over after the Delhi assembly polls early next year. A hint to this effect was dropped by Congress General Secretary, Organisation, K.C. Venugopal who said that country wants his leadership more now.

Venugopal, who is accompanying Gandhi to his Kerala constituency Wayanad, told reporters: “The nation is going through a critical phase… The party needs his leadership and there is loud chorus from the workers to bring him again and we hope he will listen to them.”

A Congress session is scheduled in the next few months to ratify the appointment of interim President Sonia Gandhi. A source said that in the same meet, a chorus will grow to bring again Rahul Gandhi as planned by young leaders in the party.

Rahul Gandhi’s elevation to the party organisation was first demanded at the AICC’s Hyderabad session in 2006 where workers from UP raised slogans in his favour and he was made party General Secretary in 2007. After that, the demand to make him Vice President was raised at the brainstorming session in Jaipur in 2013.

He was elected President unopposed in 2017 after demand from different quarters of the party, but during the 2019 General Elections, the party was routed under his leadership and he resigned in May taking the responsibility of poll debacle and did not budge to the party’s repeated requests to reconsider. In August, Sonia Gandhi was appointed interim party chief.

Though he may not be the party chief, but Rahul Gandhi’s decisions are evident within the party’s decisions as evinced by appointment of Nitin Raut as minister in the Shiv Sena-Congress-Nationalist Congress Party coalition government in Maharashtra and of Nana Patole as the Assembly Speaker.

The party is finalising a venue for the AICC session, which could be held in the Congress-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan in January and February, a source said.

By: BY SAIYED MOZIZ IMAM

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RBI holding repo rate bodes well for savings: Economists

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Reserve Bank of India RBI

New Delhi, Dec 6 : Even as many see the RBI’s pause on repo rate as a setback for the growth, some economists argue that any further cut could have affected households savings which have already seen a decline in recent times.

“Reduction in interest rate will work negatively. The interest rate is like a double-edged sword. It will have an impact on savings and it will have an impact on investments. We know very clearly that it does not have much impact on investments. Now, what is it doing? It is basically hampering the savings,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP).

He also said that monetary policy is not just about interest rates.

“There are many things which monetary policy does. It can ensure that credit flow is better and the banking sector is in good shape. They can create money supply. So, it can do many things. They have to now see how savings could be improved,” the NIPFP professor said.

M. Govinda Rao, Chief Economic Advisor, Brickwork Ratings, said that transmission of the reduction in the policy (repo rate) requires the lending rates to fall. Further, that would also require the deposit rates to fall, which could result in reduced saving by households.

“When the inflation rate is perking up, if the banks also reduce the deposit rates, the rate of return on savings will decline which could not only reduce the incentive to save but also can hurt the elderly who maintain themselves from the interest income,” he said.

As per Economic Survey of FY19, gross savings fell nearly 60 basis points as a share of GDP in two years to 30.5 per cent in 2017-18. Household savings led the decline as its share contracted from as high as 23.6 per cent of GDP in 2011-12 to 17.2 per cent of GDP in 2017-18.

“The household sector savings declined from 23.6 per cent of GDP in 2011-12 to 17.2 per cent in 2017-18 and its net financial savings and a ratio of GDP declined from 7.2 per cent to 6.5 per cent during the same period. Thus, besides inflationary expectations, ensuring adequate real rate of return on the savings could be an objective of keeping the repo rate constant,” Govinda Rao said.

As against market expectations of a rate cut, the RBI on Thursday maintained the policy repo rate at 5.15 per cent. With this, the reverse repo rate also stands unchanged at 4.9 per cent. The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) was unanimous in its decision to maintain status quo on both rates and ‘accommodative’ stance.

(Nirbhay Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])

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Immediately probe the encounter: Legal experts

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Hyderabad Murder Encounter

New Delhi, Dec 6 : Legal experts say as per the law a probe should be immediately set up into the mysterious encounter of the four accused in the rape and murder of a Hyderabad-based veterinarian.

“The rule of law should prevail in the country, there should be an immediate inquiry into the encounter of the accused,” said senior advocate Vikas Singh, former President of Supreme Court Bar Association.

A week after the brutal gang rape and murder of the young veterinarian in Hyderabad, police shot dead all the four accused in an alleged ‘encounter’ near Shadnagar town.

The accused were killed in the early hours of Friday when they allegedly snatched weapons from the police and tried to escape from Chatanpally near Shadnagar, about 50 kms from Hyderabad.

Singh emphasised that there should be balance between justice delivery system and human rights of the citizens. “The authorities should immediately begin an inquiry into this encounter, and this probe should be completed as soon as possible. The authorities should ascertain whether it was a genuine encounter or it was stage managed by the police,” added Singh.

The four accused killed in the encounter were identified as lorry drivers Mohammed Arif (26) and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu (20), and lorry cleaners Jollu Shiva (20) and Jollu Naveen (20). All hailed from the Narayanpet district of Telangana.

Senior advocate Puneet Mittal said that there should immediately be a judicial probe into the matter to unearth the real picture behind this mysterious encounter. “The probe should be on the factors that were behind this encounter. The families of the accused could also move the court seeking inquiry into the matter,” added Mittal.

Senior advocate Sanjay Parekh said according to the law the encounter should be looked into as killings. “As per law, a case should be registered against the police officials involved in the alleged encounter followed by a probe,” said Parekh.

He also insisted that usually the action of the police officials claiming self defence comes into the picture at the stage of the trial, but at this stage of the case there should be a probe immediately to verify the encounter.

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