Before Seshan-After Seshan.
Who remembers Mahem massacre today ?
Can you imagine a Gun wielding ruling party candidate coming to election booths along with his goons accompanied by police officials and killing voters who wouldn’t vote for him?
Yes, this is what exactly happened in 1991 in Meham, Haryana.
Abhay Singh Chautala was a grand son of Devilal the Dy PM of India and son of Haryana CM OP Chautala. He took a bunch of goons along with police officers, killed 8 people in a polling booth and captured all the booths. He took ballot papers and voted for himself. He went from booth to booth, terrorising people who wouldn’t vote for him.
Till 90s, Indian elections meant Mayhem, massacre and murder. It was so common to hear about an independent candidate being murdered in an election to postpone the polls. During elections, hundreds of people used to die in violence. Booth capturing, rigging, terrorising people and voting for the biggest Goonda was most common phenomena in Indian elections. It happened everywhere from UP, Bihar, Haryana, Andhra, Gujarat to Bengal.
Hence, communists ruled for decades as they had made rigging an art. No one had heard what Election Commission means or who controls elections. (the most important part of our democracy). It all changed when TN Seshan took over as Election Commissioner of India in 1990. He was a Real Tiger and perhaps the bravest and greatest IAS officer Indian has ever seen.
He changed the face of elections in India After he took over, the first thing he did was implant the rule book.
Free and Fair Election are the back bone of a democracy
EC became an important institution in Indian democracy and without it no democracy can survive. EC got all the powers to conduct free and fair elections. Problem was, no Election Commissioner before him used his powers. They just let Corrupt Netas with their goons and Local Police murder the elections.
So, after Seshan arrived, he took over the power of local police and Govt officials.
He involved para military and central forces. Every assembly segment booth was matched for degree of violence. The sensitive booths were heavily guarded From announcement of elections to counting day all the local police, Babus reported to EC.
My dad used to tell so many stories on how he made Police and Babus have fallen in line. The rules he made to conduct free elections included not allowing any one near the booth. The most famous was VOTER ID Card with our Photo. Till then voters used to get Chits to vote. I have seen many of my schools mates who have voted. Many males who have voted for females and many dead voters who have voted. It was all farce elections.
Jiska Lathi uska Elections
He also controlled spending by making a Limit on it and auditing accounts from every candidate. Other wise rich guy will spend crores, giving free liquor every day and even get Sunny Leone to dance for his voters. It was all happening those days.
All this happened in a very short time. He was the biggest hero for middle class
More than elections, it was his stories which were a part of gossip and attained folk lore status.
Seshan is coming meant Gabbar Sher is coming and everyone is shivering. By nature, we Indians are very timid people. We are very corrupt and naughty when no one watches us. But if there is some one strong who is in charge, we all act like cats and fall in line. I know the most corrupt Babu trembling with fear when Seshan came.
But the Netas ganged up against him and started complaining he is a dictator, a fascist, a racist and what not.
Later, Election Commission became a 3 member body with 3 Commissioners with Chief Election Commissioner.
One among equal!
With powers cut and having to work as a team, Seshan became a toothless tiger. But the path he laid is still strong today, and hence EC does a great job during elections (though there are places like Bellary where money flows like Water during elections). Still compared to 90s, today’s election are peaceful free and fair.
Coming to the Haryana story, after Meham massacre, EC cancelled those elections, a CBI enquiry took place with Devi Lal getting upset that he couldn’t save his son and grandson. Ultimately, it lead to the fall of VP Singh Govt.