Kanchi seer cautioned Rajiv week before death: Seshan’s memoir

Four days later, on 14 May, Seshan received a message from Kanchipuram Shankara Mutt, asking Rajiv to be careful.

Published: 10th June 2023 08:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th June 2023 01:22 PM   |  A+A-

“Through the Broken Glass”

“Through the Broken Glass” , a memoir by former Chief Election Commissioner T N Seshan.

Express News Service

NEW DELHI:   The tragedy of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s death was a personal loss, writes former Chief Election Commissioner T N Seshan in his autobiography, which was published posthumously this week.

In his book “Through the Broken Glass”, published by Rupa, Seshan said that a week before Gandhi was assassinated, Seshan received a message from the Kanchipuram Shankara Mutt, asking Rajiv to be careful. Gandhi was assassinated in Sriperumbudur while campaigning for Congress in the 1991 Lok Sabha elections.

“On 10 May 1991, I called on Rajiv around daybreak. There was no agenda; it was a personal chat to convey my concern, to which Rajiv replied, laughing: ‘I won’t die twice’. I cautioned him again, beseeching him to reconsider his decision to campaign so freely, but to no avail,” he wrote.. Four days later, on 14 May, Seshan received a message from Kanchipuram Shankara Mutt, asking Rajiv to be careful.

“I told the Kanchi seer that Rajiv was taking the risk lightly in spite of being cautioned by me. A fax to this effect was again sent directly to him and that reached his table on 17 May. However, before he could read it, he was killed in the bomb blast in Sriperumbudur on 21 May. I was grief-stricken again. I did not attend the cremation and spent the entire day at home,” he wrote.

Seshan, who took over as CEC in 1990, writes in the book that due to his interest in horoscopes, he was eager to see what the stars foretold about Rajiv. “There were valid astrological reasons, apart from a host of other factors, to conclude well in advance that Rajiv’s party was poised for victory. Ironically, that was what brought me intimations of fear,” he said. Sheshan, who drafted the legislation for the SPG Act, says that he tried to convince Rajiv that the laws should protect the PM and his family, along with the former PMs and their immediate families, but he declined to do so.

“One particular section of the Act said that the SPG shall provide proximate protection to the PM and his immediate family. I suggested to Rajiv that we needed to include past PMs and their families too in the Act,” wrote Seshan.

Though he cited the example of the USA, where the Federal Bureau of Investigation looks after the president’s family even long after his death, Rajiv did not agree.. “I argued that Rajiv and his immediate family would need protection even after he gave up the job due to election loss or any other reason. He thought that people would believe he was doing it out of pure self-interest. He said no for the former PMs; it was enough to include the present one,” said Seshan, who was in -charge of the PM’s security at that time.

Though Rajiv never took his personal security lightly, there were times when he overruled Seshan. “He overturned my strong opposition to his visit to Colombo to sign the Indo–Sri Lanka Accord. Despite Chidambaram backing me, Rajiv would still not listen. And despite our best efforts, Rajiv was attacked,” wrote Seshan.


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