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Steven T. Zech
Monash University
Alfonso Martinez Arranz
Monash University
Robert Thomson
Monash University
Dharmalingam Arunachalam
Monash University
Anand B. Rao
IIT Bombay
Working Paper
JEL Codes:
JEL code(s) not specified.
● The Uneven Expansion of Electricity Supply in India: A Political-Economy Perspective

This study examines the recent massive expansion of electricity supply in India. Usingunique data on hours of supply in over 120,000 households across the country between2014 and 2019, we describe the rapid but uneven expansion. From a political-economyperspective, we assess three distinct logics of public service delivery that might account fordifferent rates of improvement in electricity supplyclientelist, incrementalist, andmaximin logics. The clientelist logic focuses on partisan politics and posits that electedrepresentatives target investments toward areas where they hold small margins of supportto improve their chances of re-election. We indeed find evidence that in states held by theBharatiya Janata Party (BJP), improvements were concentrated in local areas where thisparty held narrow margins of support. Evidence from these states also supports the logic ofincrementalism, which suggests that policymakers generally consider policies that areclosely aligned with existing policies. In line with this logic, the evidence shows that supplyimproves in locations where surrounding areas already had relatively good electricitysupply. We also find strong support for the maximin logic, which expects the greatestimprovements to take place in locations across India that previously had the least supply.

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