Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government missed a self-imposed target to electrify every home, delaying the success of a marquee $2.3 billion development goal that his party plans to showcase before national elections this year.
After bringing electricity connections to 23.9 million households across 25 states, about 1.05 million homes in four states still lack power, the government’s Press Information Bureau said in a statement.
Power Minister R.K. Singh reaffirmed as recently as late November that the government would meet its December 31 target, which had earlier been moved up by three months.
Achieving full energy access has been one of Mr Modi’s key reforms amid his outreach to rural communities, where his Bharatiya Janata Party has been challenged by dissatisfaction and joblessness.
Electrification success would be a political boon for Mr Modi and the BJP as they face national elections in the coming months.
The central government has set several milestones for its rural electrification plan since Mr Modi came to power in 2014 -- bringing connections to all villages by May 1, then to all homes by the end 2018. After full electrification is achieved, the next goal will be to ensure reliable uninterrupted supplies by March 31.
Mr Modi’s government in September 2017 set out to electrify nearly 40 million homes, a target that has been shrinking and shifting along the way.
As of Monday, the total number of homes targeted for electrification stood at about 25 million, more than one-third fewer than the original plan. The target was revised downward to account for families that migrated to cities and households living under one roof that were grouped together for a common power connection, P.V. Ramesh, chairman of REC, which is executing the rural electrification work, said in early December.
The deadline was also brought forward from its original March 31. The government’s statement Monday, which said the states of Assam, Rajasthan, Meghalaya and Chhattisgarh are still to be electrified, made no mention of the December 31 target. It also mentioned that the state of Uttar Pradesh started a campaign to identify any “left out” households and provide electricity connections.
“Completing this program in a time-bound manner is a big achievement, but it will have to be complemented with more reforms at the state utility level,” Kameswara Rao, who leads power and mining practices at PwC India, said before the announcement.