The uneven expansion of electricity supply in India: the logics of clientelism, incrementalism and maximin

Alfonso Martinez Arranz, Robert Thomson, Steven Zech, Ganesh Hegde, Dharma Arunachalam, Anand Rao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This study examines the recent massive expansion of electricity supply in India. With data from over 120,000 observations relating to households across the country in 2014 and 2019, we describe the rapid but uneven increases in hours of supply. We compare three distinct logics of public service delivery that may account for different rates of improvement in electricity supply - the logics of clientelism, incrementalism and maximin. The clientelist logic posits that state-level elected representatives target investments toward local areas where they hold small margins of support to improve their chances of re-election. According to the logic of incrementalism, policymakers focus on policies that are closely aligned with existing policies, which implies that supply increases most in locations where surrounding areas have relatively good electricity supply. The maximin logic, by contrast, posits that the greatest improvements take place in locations that previously had the poorest supply. The evidence supports each of the three logics to some extent, but by far the strongest evidence supports the maximin logic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102126
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Electricity supply
  • India
  • Multilevel governance
  • Public services

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