Bureaucracy
Though attacked by several political leaders for his work, Kerala Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena says that he won’t get offended by it as they need to react.
Image Courtesy: Teeka Ram Meena - IAS- Rajasthani Facebook Page

As elections in the state have been completed, Kerala Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Teeka Ram Meena’s non-biased work without favouring any particular political party, has been widely recognised. And on Tuesday, much to his surprise, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that Meena has acted within the ambit of rules and that is how it ought to be.

The ruling CPI (M) had declared an open war with the officer after he was acting firm on the bogus voting by three party activists. The party state Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had even said that the CEO was acting in a partisan manner. The CPI (M) had also decided to get the opinion of the national leadership.

“I salute the Chief Minister for his statement, rising above trivial politics and political considerations, that is what is expected of a Chief Minister. This is absolutely motivating. The CM knows me very well, I have been working with him for the last 30 years,” Meena says, in an interview to TNM.

Meena says he won’t talk against political leaders for attacking him, for he believes there is nothing to get offended in it.

“My activities have been completely non-partisan, strictly as per the rules and regulations, without any political or other kind of lenience; I strictly go by the spirit of the law,” he says, when asked about Kodiyeri’s statement on him. “As the Chief Minister has said that political parties have their own views, they have to express their opinion and we should view it in that spirit only, they need to react and there is nothing wrong in that. I don’t take it otherwise. When it is against a particular political party, the president or the secretary of the party has to stand with the workers, that is his duty.”

The BJP state leadership too has not been happy with Meena ever since he came out with the directive of not using young women’s entry into Sabarimala to secure votes or to instigate communal hatred during elections.

“There are several leaders who are aware, at heart, that what we are doing is as per rules and regulations. I don’t get perturbed at all by their response, I don’t take it as against me. It is the people who will judge the action of a particular institution or an office,” he says.

He didn’t feel pressurised either when he got criticised by the political parties.

“Some officers due to inherent fear or might be because of lack of will power, set limitations for themselves. When you conduct the elections, Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is the Bible. MCC gives you tremendous authority and power to create a level playing spirit; because the philosophy is that the elections should be free, independent, fair and transparent, so that people can vote without fear. People, sometimes, may have the feeling that the ruling party would misuse the official machinery; that is where the role of CEO becomes most relevant. The officer should be able to address the apprehensions of the people, by taking a non-biased stand calling a spade a spade,” Meena says.

The 1988 batch IAS officer became the state Chief Electoral Officer in March 2018. He has been working in the state for over 30 years and he began his stint as a sub-collector in Malappuram.

Meena has much praise for the people of the state and believes he wouldn’t have been able to act like this if he had worked in any other state. “Kerala is unique. People here are law-abiding, knowledgeable and will back officers who follow the rules. I always give credit to the Kerala people, if it was in any other state, nobody would have come to support me. The people here won’t keep quiet. I would even give credit to the politicians, in some other states, goons working on behalf of politicians will threaten bureaucrats. And the media here do objective reporting,” he says.

Belonging to a humble tribal family in Rajasthan, Meena says that he is his own role model. “Among others who are my role models, they are my father and elder brother. “My father was an illiterate farmer who fought against all injustices in his life; he was respected in our area for the simple reason that he always stood with the poor when they were harassed by powerful leaders. He was very brave. The value of a human being is to raise voice when there is injustice. When you go for a war, it is your decision, your own conviction that I should react to some particular situation, you can vacate the chair any time, but do it after fighting,” he concludes. 

ReadKerala CEO Teeka Ram Meena: An officer who got bouquets and brickbats