Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an "underachiever" the
prestigious Time magazine asks whether the architect of 1991
economic reforms can rouse himself and put India back on the high
"Narrowing the gap between heightened expectations and the nation
capacity to deliver, should be a job for the man who launched
those expectations 21 years ago with such oratorical flourish,"
Time says in the cover story of its Asia edition.
"India can only wait to see if Singh can rouse himself, let alone
prevail or overcome," wonders the cover story of the July 16 issue
with the blurb: "The Underachiever. India needs a reboot. Is Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh up to the job?"
Tracing Manmohan Singh journey to the top from his remote farming
village in Gah, now in northeast Pakistan, the magazine suggests
that the 79-year-old prime minister today appears "unwilling to
stick his neck out" on reforms that will put the country back on
the growth path.
"Last quarter, India's GDP growth fell to a nine-year low of 5.3
percent, a steep drop from 9.2 percent the same period last year
and a worrying turn for a country that needs to stay on a high
growth path to pull hundreds of millions out of poverty," the
"With the rupee hitting record lows, a yawning fiscal deficit and
a lack of economic direction from the government's top brass,
investors at home and abroad are beginning to get cold feet," Time
Voters too are losing confidence, as rising inflation and a litany
of scandals chip away at the government's credibility, it said,
citing a recent national poll suggesting that 66 percent of
urbanites believed Singh and his coalition had lost the right to
"How has India's technocrat-in-chief fallen so far from grace,"
wondered Time magazine, noting that during his first term, India's
economy reached a clip of 9.6 percent growth.
"Singh's coalition passed laws to guarantee the right of rural
Indians to work while improving civic rights and political
transparency. In 2009, when the government was re-elected, the
headlines trumpeted: SINGH IS KING!"
Asking whether Manmohan Singh was "Asleep at the Wheel", Time
said: "Business-friendly laws that could spur growth to offset
that spending are languishing, and industry is struggling."
Industry leaders are demanding a host of bold reforms, such as an
end to expensive subsidies, deregulation of diesel prices and
resumption of a law to allow multibrand retailers like Walmart
into India, it noted.
Time suggested that "Singh has joined the public soul searching
belatedly, and the electorate will let him know what it thinks of
his performance in general elections scheduled for 2014".
Meantime, other players in the Congress, most notably Rahul
Gandhi, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's son, are positioning
themselves to take Singh's place, the magazine said.
"The opposition BJP is also working out its internal power
struggles and choosing a front man who can take the government
back," it said.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)