Visualising Indian Elections

When the Election Commission res­ults for the 2011 as­sembly elec­tions came out, we thought we’d take a look at the res­ults for Tamil Nadu.

The easi­est way to see geo­graph­ic data is, of course, on a map. Since the res­ults are an­nounced constituency-wise, it makes lo­gic­al sense to plot each con­stitu­ency on the map.

However, map-based visu­al­isa­tions suf­fer from one prob­lem: the area of a geo­graph­ic re­gion is not al­ways pro­por­tion­al to its im­port­ance. In elec­tions, each con­stitu­ency equal weight­age: one seat. But the areas can vary con­sid­er­ably. Chennai, for in­stance, is a tiny dot on the map, but yet is split in­to three dif­fer­ent con­stitu­en­cies.

A bet­ter way is to take an ap­prox­im­a­tion of the map. We can plot each con­stitu­ency as a block, and po­s­i­tion it roughly at its geo­graph­ic loc­a­tion, and roughly pre­serve ad­ja­cency. This gives a reas­on­ably good geo­graph­ic pic­ture, while show­ing re­l­at­ive im­port­ance ac­cur­ately.

For ex­ample, here is a world map: the area is pro­por­tion­al to each country’s pop­u­la­tion.


We did the same for Tamil Nadu. Below is an in­ter­act­ive map that shows voter turnout. Hovering over each cell will show the num­ber of voters that turned out in that con­stitu­ency. Black shows higher votes, white shows few­er voters.

Voter turnout

Men turnout

Women turnout

The num­ber of the re­gistered voters ranges from 140,000 (Kilvelur) to 360,000 (Shozhinganallur). Each box rep­res­ents one con­stitu­ency, with a po­s­i­tion ap­prox­im­at­ing its geo­graph­ic loc­a­tion. This is a reas­on­ably good proxy for a con­stitu­ency dens­ity map.

Now, let’s take a look at voter turnout.


Turnout% men

Turnout% women

The voter turnout was pretty high, at 78%. Not too dif­fer­ent between the men (77.7%) and wo­men (78.5%), but quite dif­fer­ent across con­stitu­en­cies. Palacodu, Kulithalai and Veerapandi led the pack with turnouts of 87%, 89% and 89% while Chennai Harbour, Killiyoor and Colachal bot­tom at 64% each. The lowest turnouts are con­cen­trated around Chennai, Coimbatore and Kanyakumari – in­ter­est­ingly these are the more af­flu­ent areas.

% votes: ADMK

% votes: DMDK

% votes: DMK

Clearly, ADMK has swept the elec­tions. What’s in­ter­est­ing is that they won ab­so­lute ma­jor­it­ies in a num­ber of areas (high­lighted by the dark­er shades of green), un­like DMK or MDMK, who mostly won sim­ple ma­jor­it­ies.

% margin: ADMK

% margin: DMDK

% margin: DMK

A num­ber of ADMK vic­tor­ies were by a large mar­gin, but so were some of the DMDK and DMK vic­tor­ies. AKT Raja of DMDK won Thirupurankundram with a 30% mar­gin, for ex­ample. Former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi (DMK) won with a com­fort­able 29% mar­gin at Thiruvarur as well. Vijaykant (DMDK) man­aged an 18% mar­gin at Rishivandiyam. It is in­ter­est­ing that 92% wo­men voted at Rishivandiyam – sig­ni­fic­antly higher than any­where else in the state.

Visualising the Indian Budget

india-budget-comparisonThe last Indian budget stood at Rs 1,020,838 crores (about 227 bil­lion US dol­lars). Take a look at this pic­ture to get a sense of how big that is. It’s slightly more than Africa’s debt to the Western world, a bit un­der the cost of a manned mis­sion to Mars, and half the Chinese government’s stim­u­lus pack­age. It’s two-thirds of Wal-Mart’s rev­en­ues, and over 4 times Bill Gates’ net worth. (See The Billion Dollar-o-gram.)

Put an­other way, it’s the in­come tax col­lec­ted from 10 lakh Sehwags or Dhonis, 1,600 Van Gogh por­traits, or just 100 res­id­ences like Antilia, Mumbai.

We de­cided to take a closer look at the budget to see how this money was be­ing spent, and how this has changed over the last 10 years, based on data from the Union Budget.

Here’s a short video giv­ing an over­view of the budget and some ob­ser­va­tions.

Let’s take a closer look:


The budget has tripled over the last 10 years in nom­in­al terms, from 338 thou­sand crores to 1,020 thou­sand crores. But if you ad­just for in­fla­tion (us­ing WPI), it’s doubled In 2010 terms, the budget in 2000-2001 was Rs 493 thou­sand crores. That’s a 6% growth in real terms (12% nom­in­al) — about in line with the GDP growth. The graph also shows ac­cel­er­a­tion. The growth over the last 4 years was 12% in real terms — twice that over the last 10 years.


The top ex­pense, in­terest pay­ments, is over a fifth of the budget. It has more than doubled in nom­in­al terms over the last 10 years. But in real terms, that’s not too big — just a 3% growth. The bulk of this growth has happened in the last 4 years. Interest pay­ments only ac­counts for 14% of the real in­crease in the budget.


The Central Plan has a dif­fer­ent story, how­ever. It’s grown to the second largest item, but 10 years ago, it was just 10%. It has ex­per­i­enced the fast­est growth: 16% in real terms. In terms of con­tri­bu­tion to the real budget in­crease, this is the single largest con­trib­ut­or, at 29%.


Subsidies have grown con­sid­er­ably as well, though not as much as the Central plan. They con­trib­ute 16% — about as much as in­terest pay­ments — to the real budget in­crease, but what’s in­ter­est­ing is the sur­pris­ingly large growth in re­cent times.


A pat­tern that is emer­ging is the re­cent growth in ex­pendit­ure. Many items have had a sub­stan­tial in­crease in the re­cent past. Defence rev­en­ue ex­pendit­ure, pen­sions, po­lice, so­cial ser­vices, etc. have had a marked in­crease in the last year. Many oth­ers, like in­terest pay­ments, sub­sidies and cent­ral as­sist­ance have grown con­sid­er­ably over the last few years. This may be a pat­tern worth in­vest­ig­at­ing fur­ther.

Workshop on Visual Analytics: slides

Yesterday, we presen­ted at ISB’s work­shop on Visual Analytics. Prof. Galit Shmueli demon­strated ways of ex­plor­ing data visu­ally us­ing Spotfire. We covered the present­a­tion­al as­pects of data visu­al­isa­tion us­ing in­dustry case stud­ies.

The slides are be­low.