In my last post, I wrote that mapping Shia (and by inversion Sunni) Lucknow will be fairly difficult - and so it is. There surely are plenty of mental maps1 - an important part of my research (see my methodology) - and thinking about Shia or Sunni dominated areas is a favorite timepass for some of my contacts (especially Shia ones). But hard data? Almost impossible to find. It is thus befitting that it took me all my time in Lucknow - today being my second last post from the field - to come up with something seemingly as plebeian as even an experimental map of the Shia population of the city. In fact, I found only one single other such map in all of the material which I read about Lucknow - in a paper by Mushirul Hassan,2 based on a 1961 Census monograph3...:

  • 1. Gould, P, White, R. (1986). Mental maps. 2nd ed. Boston: Allen & UNWIN.
  • 2. Hasan, M. (1997). Traditional rites and contested meanings: Sectarian strife in colonial Lucknow. In V. Graff (Ed.), Lucknow: Memories of a city. Delhi: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • 3. ...which subsequently went missing from the Census library in Lucknow - at least they claimed that before they threw me out; the reference is Census of India. (1961). Moharram in two cities (Lucknow and Delhi). In: Census monograph series, part VII-B: Fairs and festivals.

There was a time in the 1990s when political commentators joked about Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and his attempts to woo Muslim voters by calling him a "Maulana", an Islamic scholar. With the recent assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the talk of "Muslim vote banks" returned with vehemence - and many political observers attributed the clear SP victory to a "return" of Muslims to the party. In their surveys, political scientists did, however, not find any evidence for such a return (see here and here).

In today's blog - based on a draft paper I presented last week at Aligarh Muslim University - I argue that this contradiction might be resolved through closer attention to the local level. Based on my work with electoral roll data (see here, here and there), I unpack the "Muslim vote" hypothesis at the example of urban Lucknow. There, Muslims indeed voted more for SP - but not more than they always did (which might be different at different times, in other parts of Uttar Pradesh, or even in rural parts of Lucknow). This localized perspective nicely complements, but also complicates, existing assesments of the "Muslim vote". Since I am currently broadening the analysis to the whole of Uttar Pradesh, today's post is thus also an appetizer for a larger argument in the making.

Since I cleaned up my data anyway, I thought I might also take a deeper look at an earlier suspicion about Lucknow's urban sprawl. So I mapped the boundaries of the same according to three different datasets - the official ward boundaries notified in the late 1990s (based on census data from 1991), the builtup area as seen from NASA's MODIS satellite in 2002 (which I used in all my maps so far), and now the area in which polling stations had more than one booth in the 2012 assembly elections (which tend to be urban, while rural Lucknow has one booth per station, and one station per village). Here is the outcome (larger version):

Always, always, always look closely at raw data before doing any statistics! This was the most important lesson my statistics teacher tried to impress upon me back in undergraduate training. Funny things can go wrong when handling large datasets, so switch on your common sense and compare input with output - or so he said. He has just been proven right once more. I spent two weeks to pay for my negligence, and the following three blog posts had to be corrected:

Mapping Lucknow: party strongholds
Mapping Lucknow: Muslim life
Residential segregation

What happened? Two weeks ago, I decided to wrap up my work with the electoral rolls which kept me occupied for the last so many weeks. While copying all files in a common folder to clean up the mess on my pendrive, I saw an odd irregularity in polling station names. I looked closer. And it all blew up.

In order to create the maps and statistics mentioned above, I had to integrate datasets from four different years: election results from 2007, 2009 and 2012, polling station localities from 2009, and electoral rolls revised in 2011. I knew that 2007 would be tricky, since constituency boundaries were redrawn in the 2008 delimitation exercise. I did not expect 2009, 2011 and 2012 to be a problem though. Consequently, I just integrated these datasets based on the unique polling booth ID assigned by the Election Commission. Silly me.

Luckily, the server farms in Oxford remained unaffected by the huge electricity blackout rocking North India for the last 48 hours. Ever since my post on Muslim names, they stoically crawled through Lucknow's current electoral rolls to guess the religious community each voter belongs to. They identified 98% of all voters at the pace of roughly half a million names a day (for comments on the accuracy of this matching exercise, see below). And they thus enabled me to generate a draft map of Muslim life in Lucknow by caculating population shares (voter population shares, to be precise) on polling booth level and linking them to polling station locality (drawn from the National Informatics Centre).

Apart from the river (in blue), my own home (red dot), and the MODIS built-up area polygon already featured in earlier maps, the following visualization shows "Muslim name" density (background shade), Haj pilgrims (green circles; drawn from the 2012 Qurrah), and major Islamic institutions in Lucknow. The map is interactive: do zoom in for increasing detail, and click on the mosques to get to the respective institution's website (there is also a larger version):