“Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.” Lenin’s aphorism, delivered to the Eighth All-Russia Congress of Soviets in 1920, reflected his insight that electricity supplies were crucial for the Communist government, politically as well as economically. Electricity is essential to modern life, and if you want anyone to support you, you have to keep the lights on. The fury in Iraq this summer was a sharp reminder that electrical power and political power are inextricably intertwined.
Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has understood that point well. Last year he pledged to connect every household in the country to power supplies by April 2019, just in time for the next general election. In April of this year he claimed success in connecting every village. The government’s official dashboard recording its progress showed that of 19,679 villages without electricity in April 2015, 93 per cent had been connected and the rest were almost all uninhabited. Read more