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.

  • 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).

Over the last weeks of heat-induced desk-work, I took a deeper look at some of the statistics and maps acquired over the last months. It has been a pain to get them, and I am still hunting for more - but I now have enough to get started. As a teaser, I thus got my act together and set TileMill in motion to tell you a first spatial story about Lucknow: where do people live (including me)? And where are all the women (and men)? This first map shows ward-wise population density based on 2001 census data1 (a larger version is available here):

  • 1. 2011 data is not available yet at that level of detail, and also maps on a slightly different set of wards post-delimitation; the latter is also true for 1991. I will post a diachronic perspective once I sorted these issues out

I always thought I were dependent on my high-tech equipment for fieldwork, but it turns out the low-tech is as important. Low-tech as in: running water and decent power supply. Both of which turned quite sketchy over the last days - forcing me to while away my time in the shady trees around Rifah-e-Aam, temporarily suspending thinking, not to speak of doing interviews or, God forbid, writing stuff. I can't even write blog posts, at least not about my topic. But I have plenty to say on other electricizing issues (does that expression exist in English? It does in German anyway). Here is my week's rant:

It all began when the summer heat turned above 45 degrees celsius. Reason enough for some thunder and lightning we thought - till we realized that the lightning occured between our AC outdoor unit and the metal balcony grill. Impressive, loud and bright - and, subsequently, hot within the flat and smoky outside. The electrician put in a new cable, fitted with tesa© tape, a high-tech German engineering product as he keenly pointed out. Just to be on the safe side, I later replaced the defunct tripping fuse as well - he rather opted to rely on his rubber-feet sandals and the many charms around his neck. Which could explain the short life expectancy of Indian electricians, and in turn the mediocre quality of service (and yes, I know this is a spurious circular argument - even in 45 degrees, I can think that much).

When I introduced the Rifah-e-Aam Club as my first field discovery in Lucknow back in October, I briefly mentioned its significance for Lucknow Literati circles. It is high time, I feel, to follow-up by looking at two circles in particular - the Progressive Writers Association, which was founded in the Rifah-e-Aam in 1936,1 and the poetic project of the Club's contemporary inhabitant - Sri Cakrapani Pandit. One could add to that list the Jalsah-e-Tehzeeb as the first stage of the Club's relation with literature - but I shall save this for a later post...

Let me first turn to Zaheer's seminal Roshnai,2 in which he reflects upon the convention in which the movement for progressive literature was founded:

We put all our efforts into acquiring the Rifah-e-Aam Hall for our conference. This attractive building had been bequeathed to the nation to serve as a venue for public meetings and conferences, by an eccentric potentate of Lucknow. This progressive-minded gentleman had been dead for several years, and after his departure from the scene, city lawyers and barristers had appropriated the building and set up their club there. The hall now served as a biliard and bridge room and location for a bar (55)

I shall add that the very same bar room is still proudly shown to visitors like me - though nothing than memory reminds one that it had been a bar once. And the billiard table must have been an impressive one, too - all neighbours know of it, and its the first thing mentioned when asking about the Club. On goes Zaheer:

  • 1. Though my colleage and Lucknowi friend Emily Durham-Shapiro would undoubtedly have a lot more to say on this, since she writes her PhD about it...
  • 2. Zaheer, S. (2006). The light. Oxford: Univ. Press.

Khamosh is an Urdu term for silence and taciturnity. Yesterday, Lucknow went to the polls for the ongoing UP state elections - and while the papers today report a record turnout of 53% in my constituency (Lucknow central), that is exactly what the elections felt like around here: they were a silent and tacit affair, both audibly and visibly (as the picture of an otherwise busy intersection demonstrates, taken yesterday). Given the image of UP politics as the core of Indian democracy - vibrant, rowdy, and exorbitant - this is really surprising. What happened? This post tries to give a first, unfiltered response.

On election day itself, the answer is simple: nothing much happened, really. Yes, people went to their polling booth, politicians took a break, police officers enjoyed the sun, children let their kites fly high - and scholars like me were busy being puzzled. More puzzling than the khamosh polling day were, however, the silent weeks ahead. Of course, the media was full of buzz, with all the indecisive factors in this election: will Mayawati stay in office? Most likely not. Will the Samajwadi Party return or fade away forever? Most likely it will return. Is there a Rahul Gandhi factor? Yes. What is it? No idea. Similarly: is there a Anna Hazare factor? Yes. What is it? Nobody knows. And on and on and on...