After my first experimental population map of Lucknow I am now embarking on more serious business: today I will attempt to map political strongholds in town. Where are the firm support bases of the four major parties of Uttar Pradesh - Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Indian National Congress (INC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)?1 To me and many others (including the parties), this question became particularly interesting after the assembly elections earlier this year, in which the traditionally BJP-affine capital city almost wholly embraced SP candidates in a surprise landslide. Pockets of stability within this major sweep, so my contention, would surely signal some sort of stronghold. Let's see if we can find these pockets...

As a data basis for the following maps, I obtained the locations of each polling booth in Lucknow from the National Informatics Center and calculated the areas they serve using a simple Voronoi transformation (after some necessary data cleanup). I then meshed in booth-wise results for both the 2012 assembly elections and the 2009 parliamentary elections, obtained from the Chief Electoral Officer of UP. Finally, I added last week's river (in blue), my own home (red dot), and the MODIS built-up area polygon to beautify the map somewhat.

To identify strongholds, I chose two indicators: winning margin - and persistency of voter preference across elections (or, in other words: "strong" and "hold"...). I thus colored a polling station's area if the same party won both the last parliamentary and the last assembly elections there (green is for SP, blue for BSP, red for Congress and yellow for BJP). Secondly, I adjusted the intensity of this coloring so that it reflects the average voteshare distance between the winning party and its closest contender (you can hover over each area to see actual figures; there is also a larger version):

The resulting "stronghold map" shows, firstly, that the BJP still has a firm grip over many parts of Lucknow, especially in the newer neighbourhoods across the river to the north east. It also shows - somewhat surprisingly, given the overall results - that the canttonment and south Lucknow areas are rather firmly in Congress hands (this is of course the stronghold of UP Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi). Finally, one sees pockets of green (SP) and blue (BSP) in the outskirts; would the map extend to the whole district, these would continue: the rural areas are almost entirely in either party's strong grip. Neither BJP nor Congress play any role there, and very few villages switched their allegiance from 2009 to 2012. For this latter phenomenon, the white areas are of course most interesting: these are the areas which did switch - and most were won by Team Akhilesh in the assembly polls. Many also seem to be in Muslim-dominated areas of old Lucknow - but I will deal with the "Muslim question" of the last polls separately and in more detail in one of the next posts.

Now: given that quite some strongholds still exist even after the SP sweep, I was curious to see how these relate to voter turnout pattern. Are strongholds strong because of particularly high level of politicization? Or can we see the inverse trend, namely that turnouts are low wherever the winner is clear anyway? And would those areas which shifted their allegiance from 2009 to 2012 display a higher or lower turnout? Here is the map, darkness signifying a higher average turnout of parliamentary and assembly polls (larger version):

The first impression that comes to mind while looking at this second map is: none of the speculations above can be supported. Statistics confirm this: there is only a very slight negative correlation between voter turnout and winning margin (Pearson's r of -0.04, significant at 5%). If a trend can be seen at all in the voter turnout data, it would be increased voting towards Lucknow's outskirts and rural areas - a trend confirmed, by the way, once one looks at the whole district. Which nicely fits with my earlier report from polling day, entitled "khamosh elections"...

Some final reflections: Neither of today's map is as self-evident as the ones I posted last week; the first one is very complex, the second one tells no real story. Lesson learned: it is extremely demanding to design good spatial visualizations. Secondly, raw data from the EIC - while freely available - is not free of flaws and certainly not easy to digest. Still, there are more stories in the pipeline. While everybody in Lucknow is waiting for the outcome of the local bodies polls (I will follow up soon in case an interesting story emerges), it would also be interesting, for instance, to compare male and female voter registration and turnout to last week's gender map, or to look at party performance in Lucknow in more detail. And I am not yet fed up with big data, in fact I currently experiment with electoral rolls: almost 3 million names for Lucknow alone will surely tell an interesting story. Keep reading!

I would like to acknowledge the use of the Oxford Supercomputing Centre (OSC) in carrying out this work.

  • 1. I am only interested in the four major parties against each other; the following map does not show other candidates (though they may have gotten a sizeable voteshare).