Is Manmohan Singh Sonia’s poodle, asks British daily

London: “Manmohan Singh – India’s saviour or Sonia’s poodle?” read the headline of a report in The Independent which observed that the Indian Prime Minister’s reforming zeal had evaporated and slowed the country’s growth. The British daily cited observers to say he had “no genuine political power” and owed his position to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

One of Manmohan Singh’s problems is that “he has no genuine political power. Rather, he owes his position to Sonia Gandhi, widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, mother of Rahul and Congress Party chairwoman, who to the delight of India’s middleclass selected him for that role when her party won a surprise victory in 2004”, the report said.

“This has meant he has sometimes been unable to even control his cabinet and his failure to more quickly address the actions of a coalition minister, accused of defrauding the country up to $40bn in a telecom licence scam, led to him being accused of further weakness,” it added.

The story said the quietly-spoken Manmohan Singh finds himself accused of abject failure.

Critics from business say his “reforming zeal has evaporated and slowed the country’s growth, while political opponents say he has overseen an administration that has revealed itself to be mired in corruption. From within his ruling Congress Party there are repeated, if oblique, demands for him to step aside ahead in favour of his presumed successor, Rahul Gandhi”, said the daily.

The story comes close on the heels of Manmohan Singh being dubbed an “underachiever” by Time magazine, which asked whether the architect of 1991 economic reforms could rouse himself and put India back on the high growth path.

“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 said in the cover story of its Asia edition.