Electoral reforms and Mahaperiyava


Shri TN Seshan had gone to meet Paramacharya in the early 90s, after he was transferred from the post of Home Secretary to the post of Chief Election Commissioner – considered a sinecure among Indian civil servants in early 90s.

Paramacharya, who was 97 when a visibly disappointed Seshan came to meet Him, immediately sensed the cause of his disappointment and counseled him to treat the transfer as an opportunity granted by God to serve the Indian public. He had suggested that Seshan visit the Uthiramerur temple (~15 kms from Kanchi Sri Matam) and read through the details of electoral regulations prevalent in India about 1000 years ago, including qualifications of candidates that can contest elections.

In the words of Mr. Seshan, ‘The credit for Electoral reforms must go to Kanchi Mahaswami, but for who this would not have been possible. At 97, He had such clarity and described minute details of the electoral rules embossed on the northern walls of the Uthiramerur temple. And mentioned to me that even implementing a tenth of these reforms, would be a great service to India”.

The rest as we know is history. An inspired and reinvigorated Seshan went back to reform the Indian electoral system, ultimately resulting in the coinage – ‘Seshan vs Nation’3 A key takeaway for all next-gen managers from our Guru, is to develop a historical perspective in our respective fields of endeavor both to avoid repeating mistakes and to stay inspired.

Mahaperiyava Padham Potri!

Thanks for Smt Jayalakshmi for FB share



Categories: Devotee Experiences

4 replies

  1. Indians are largely unaware of true Indian history. We have been taught, in the name of history, to glorify the aggressors, looters, invaders and robbers. Our history was written by invaders, and it has been taught religiously by our imitators and admirers of foreign manners.. We have been taught to deny our past, decry our achievements, denounce ourselves as static, unprogressive.

    In Tamil Nadu there is a tendency to glorify everything Tamil in a blind manner, and the immediate attempt is to go the golden Sangam age and the Tamil rulers.The fact that the Tamil rulers fought among themselves relentlessly and brought ruin on themselves is conveniently overlooked.. Thus, the last Chola king was killed by the Pandyan ruler. The Pandyan ruler himself ran away from Madurai in the 14th century when Muslims invaded that temple city and sacked it . The current Tamil dispensation regards temples as mere objects of art, a particular style of architecture, and a source of income generation or exploitation. The inscriptions on its walls and precincts are of no interest to them if they do not advocate or advance the separatist Tamil cause or its imagined superiority. No wonder not many people would have heard of the inscriptions at Uttiramerur..

    The office of the Election Commission is one of the least effective independent Constitutional positions, since it depends on the executive, legislative and judicial wings of the state. It cannot even compile accurate and complete electorl rolls! They all regard the office of CEC as a rival power centre and try to weaken it. Any electoral reform has to begin with the political class and find embodiment in the Constitution. This is beyond the power of CEC to achieve. An effective CEC can merely draw attention to some aspects in the brief tenure that he usually is given. T.N.Seshan drew attention both by the matters he raised and by the manner of raising it. But he drew more attention on himself, unwittingly! In the end, one cannot be sure that he truly achieved any lasting results. When one notices the number of political candidates with criminal cases , and the openly communal nature of our elective democracy, one can easily understand why any reform that does not rise from and touch these factors cannot succeed.

    We cannot say when the kind of arrangement that we see in the Uttiramerur temple actually came to an end. The old Indian democracy was local- the village was the unit of administration ,finance and economic life and activity. The villages enjoyed complete autonomy in all respects. Even when the kings fought, this structure was not affected much. This situation continued till the British abolished the native economic arrangements , directly collected the taxes and took them away to the cities and towns- the new centres of political and commercial power. This was one of the effects of the work of Thomas Munro.

    As the British administration spread, the Collectors were required to compile lot of statistics and details about the various socio-economic arrangements prevailing in India. And the Collectors did this meticulously and kept elaborate written records. Much of it was not published, as it showed the British in bad light. These records are still preserved in the British Museum in London and other libraries. Indians writing on Indian history have not cared to access these records in the original. So they simply repeat the distorted versions and lies propagated by the British. This is the position even today.

    There was one man who was the exception. Dharampal, a follower of Gandhi, sat in the British museum and other libraries for years, pored over the original British records and documents, and at a time when photocopying facilities were not available, took down thousands of pages of these original records in long hand. Based on these, he produced a mass of writings. These have been collected and published in 5 volumes as “The Collected Writings of Dharmpal” by Other India Press, Mapusa, Goa. These cover all aspects of Indian life as it prevailed in the middle of the 18th Century, as seen, and recorded, by the British. These show the advanced state of our science, education, industry, civic and local administration at that time. It shows that the village was still largely financially independent and self-sufficient, and the temple was a centre of local social activity too. Thus we get indirect evidence that what we see in the inscriptions of Uttiramerur continued in some form till the middle of the 18th century, when the villages were reduced to a state of economic poverty and political nullity by deliberate British design.

    Those who formed the Committee to draft the Indian Constitution were Anglophiles, lovers of British jurisprudence and almost totally unaware of and unsympathetic to Indian genius in these respects. They were not even freedom fighters, except one ( K.M.Munshi) but he was somehow not able to attend the meetings regularly, and left it to the others. M.R.Masani and H.V.Kamath raised the issue during general discussions, and the matter was reported to Gandhiji, who at that time had been reduced to a mere figurehead. Thus it is that none of the Indian insights find a place in our Constitution. Perhaps the only Indian concept there is the name Bharat for India!

    Interested persons may find fuller details in Volume IV of the Collected Writings of Dharampal.

    The purport of this writing is not to detract from the importance of what Sri Seshan tried to do when he did it, but to point out that any reform has to be founded on political will, and not mere administrative arrangements.

  2. Ihadvisited for the first time kanchi kamkoti peeth yday n meditated there jaya jata shankara hara shankara

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