What’s in a name

Even simple information such as the names of candidates can provide a rich field for analysis. (For example, a few years ago, we conducted a similar analysis on the names of students in Tamil Nadu, and found that north Indian surnames consistently outperform.)

Even simple things such as the pattern in the length of names lend themselves to analysis.

State-wise name length

Gujarat is among the states whose candidates have rather long names. Rajendrasinh Ghanshyamsinh Rana (Rajubhai Rana) of BJP who won at Bhavnagar is an example of such a name. In Maharashtra, Bhonsle Shrimant Chh. Udyanraje Pratapsinhmaharaj of NCP who won at Satara is another such example.

At the other extreme, G.D. is the full official name of a BSP candidate at Tikamgarh, MP – the shortest name in our elections. Several candidates in Utttar Pradesh (Anil, Aman, Asha, Boby) and Kerala (Babu, Baby) have 4-letter names.

Here’s a map of the length of the candidate names – darker regions representing longer candidate names, and lighter regions the shorter names.



Name frequencyThe most common name among candidates was Om Prakash – with 122 such candidates (spelt also as Om Parkash). This is apart from several Om Prakash Singhs, Om Prakash Sharmas and others.

Ashok Kumar is the second most popular name, followed by Ram Singh.

This can possibly lead to confusion at the ballot. For example, at Kollam, Kerala, there were two people named N. Peethambarakurup – one the Congress candidate (who won) and the other an independent. At Thiruvallur, TN, Badaun, UP,  and in several other places, there were other candidates with the exact same name as the winning candidate. However, in none of the cases did the doppelganger receive enough votes to make a difference to the victory.

Word cloud

Breaking up the names, the surname or middle name Singh is by far the most common among all candidates.

Name trends

Over the years, the “Singh”s have the strongest representation among the candidates, though the “Kumar”s have grown steadily and significantly to take the second rank. The representation of the “Lal”s has declined from second rank to third, the “Nath”s from 3rd to5th, and the “Das”s from 5th to 7th. The representation of “Yadav”s has grown steadily as well.

Name ranks

We rarely come across data that is useless or irrelevant. Most data, even plain text, even the names of candidates, can yield insights if looked at in different ways.

Hopefully, this post will inspire some of you to look at your data with a different lens.

A historic election day

Today, on 17 Apr 2014, 121 constituencies are going for elections.This is the day on which the largest number of constituencies are voting. Last election, by votes, these constituencies polled over 9.4 crore votes. Given electoral growth and increased turnouts, it seems safe to say more than 10 crore votes (100 million) will be cast on the same day for the first time in our history.

Election Schedule


Today, all 28 of Karnataka’s constituencies are voting. Most of Rajasthan’s (20 of 28) constituencies are voting too. The rest of the 121 constituencies are split across a 10 other states. In terms of number of states covered, this is a pretty large election as well – second only to last week’s 10th April elections where 14 states were covered.

State-wise breakup

Last year, BJP won in 44 of the 121 constituencies polling today, followed by the Congress, which won in 37.

2009 Results Map

Karnataka was swept by BJP, whereas Congress had the clear majority in Rajasthan. The table below shows the results for these 121 constituencies by State and Party. The cells coloured in green indicate the party that won the largest number of seats in that constituency.

2009 Results Partywise

The closest of these elections last year were Davangene, Karnataka where Siddeswara of BJP won by just 2,024 votes (0.2% margin) against S S Mallikarjuna of Congress; and Buxar, Bihar, where Jagada Nand Singh of RJD won against Lal Muni Choubey of BJP by 2,238 votes (0.4%).

On the other hand, at Baramati, Maharashtra, Supriya Sule of NCP easily won against Kanta Jaysing Nalawade of BJP with over 3.4 lakh votes – a 46% margin of victory. At Madha, Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar of NCP won against Subhash Deshmukh of BJP with over 3 lakh votes – a 34% margin.

Several other prominent figures such as Devegowda, Jaswant singh, Madhavrao Scindia, Shatrughan Sinha, Yashwant Sinha, etc contested and won elections in these constituencies.

Whatever be the result, please do go out and vote on this historic day when 10 crore citizens exercise their franchise.

Vote splitting

What happens if a constituency has a large number of candidates? Do the votes get split, with the winner winning with a lower margin?

For example, if there are several hundreds of candidates like at Nalgonda or Belgaum in 1996, do the winners tend to win with relatively low margins? Is the CPI’s 9% margin at Nalgonda or JD’s 11% margin at Belgaum relatively low?

2004-winnersLet’s consider the 2004 elections. Here is a plot – each dot in one constituency, showing the winner’s margins against the number of candidates. It also has a blue line through the middle showing the best straight line that fits the data.

What we find is that when there are more candidates, the margin for the winner actually increases slightly, rather than reducing. It’s almost as if the increased number of candidates confuses the voters and drives them towards the leading or strongest candidate. In any case, the winner’s margin is certainly unaffected by an increase in number of candidates.

2004-runnerBut what about the other candidates? Do the runner-ups see their margins declining? That is, does the difference between the 2nd and 3rd candidate shrink as the number of candidates increase?From the graph alongside, the answer is a resounding yes. The runner-up margin takes a big hit when there are more candidates.

So at least in 2004, increasing the number of candidates was a good strategy for the party that has a strong candidate.

What about for other years? In 2009, the pattern is similar. The winner margin dipped mildly with increase in number of candidates. The runner-up margin dipped dramatically with an increase in margin.


In fact, in a number of elections, this pattern was stronger, for example in 1977, 1984 and 1989.


However, in the 1980 elections, the number of candidates impacted the winner and runner-up margins equally. The 1951 and 1957 elections showed a similar characteristic.


In recent times, an increase in number of candidates appears to favour stronger candidates. It may, in fact, be a viable leading party strategy to introduce more candidates into the elections to split the votes of the runner-up, ensuring a stronger win.