Tributes for former Chief Election Commissioner TN Seshan poured in from across the nation after his demise on Sunday in Chennai. The top electoral officer’s last rites will be performed on Monday evening.

“Unlike today, there was a time when our Election Commissioners were impartial, respected, brave and feared,” said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. “Shri TN Seshan was one of them. My condolences to his family on his passing.”

Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi described Seshan as a “seasoned civil servant” who served as the Cabinet Secretary. “...Seshan will always be remembers for strengthening the Election Commission of India and pioneering many a far reaching electoral reforms,” she said, according to News18.

Seshan held the post of the chief election commissioner from December 12, 1990 to December 11, 1996. He was a 1955-batch Indian Administrative Service officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre, and served as Cabinet secretary in 1989.

Seshan had contested the presidential election against KR Narayanan in 1997, but lost. He initiated reforms in the Election Commission to ensure free and fair polls in India. He had a no-nonsense approach and often crossed swords with politicians during elections.

Congress leader Milind Deora also remembered Seshan’s work in the Election Commission. “As Chief Election Commissioner, Seshanji galvanised India’s youth to actively participate in the world’s largest democratic exercise,” he tweeted. “May his soul rest in peace.”

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor recounted that the former election commissioner was his father’s classmate at the Victoria College in Kerala’s Palakkad district. “A courageous and crusty boss who asserted the Election Commission’s autonomy and authority as no CEC [chief election commissioner] before him had done,” he tweeted. “A pillar of our democracy.”

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee described Seshan as “a stalwart for free and fair elections”. “His legendary contribution to democracy will be always remembered,” she tweeted. “My condolences to his family and many admirers.”

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said that the former election commissioner had given the electoral body its own identity. The chief minister said that Seshan had played a significant role in bringing transparency through the voter identity card.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had offered his condolences to Seshan’s family. “Shri TN Seshan was an outstanding civil servant,” he tweeted. “He served India with utmost diligence and integrity. His efforts towards electoral reforms have made our democracy stronger and more participative. Pained by his demise. Om Shanti.”

Home Minister Amit Shah said Seshan played a “transformative role” in the country’s electoral institution. “Saddened by the demise of former Chief Election Commissioner, Shri TN Seshanji,” he tweeted. “The nation will always remember him as a true torchbearer of democracy. My prayers are with his family.”

‘Embodiment of courage and conviction’

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami and several leaders from political parties in the southern states also expressed their condolences on Seshan’s passing. The chief minister called the former bureaucrat a hard worker and excellent administrator.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy also condoled Seshan’s death. “He showed how a strong democracy could be built using the power of the Election Commission,” Reddy said, according to PTI. “Seshan’s name will etched in golden letters in the country’s history.”

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin visited Seshan’s residence along with party colleague TR Baalu after his demise. Stalin described Seshan’s death as “an irreparable loss”, adding that he was impartial while discharging his duties.

“The Election Commission’s path should be following his legacy of honest and independent polls and it will be the nation’s true tribute to him,” the DMK president said.

Paattali Makkal Katchi founder S Ramadoss paid his tributes to Seshan, and said: “India’s electoral history cannot be chronicled without mentioning the contribution of T N Seshan.”

Actor-turned-politician Kamal Hassan said that Seshan will be remembered as an “embodiment of courage and conviction. “It was he who brought the powerful role of the “Election Commission” into the drawing room discussion of the Common Man,” he tweeted.