It is indeed a tragedy that Singh is feeling the heat of mistrust, both of his party and the people, and is certain to depart the top office without much of a legacy. It is not common for a 10-year-old incumbent to face such a situation for if one has been in office for such a long time, there has to be a lasting legacy or he shouldn't have been there for so long at all.
Did Singh wait far too long for his gift (PM's post) to be taken back from him?
The press conference of January 3 will be Singh's third in his entire tenure at the office and the second since he took over the office for the second time in 2009. This shocking track record of the topmost public representative of the world's largest democracy tells enough about the sorry tale of the Sikh scholar who was once revered as the architect of the liberalised India. In fact, his ten years have not only hit his image but also put the Congress's prospects in the next Lok Sabha polls in a jeopardy. There is very little chance of a fresh successor turning things around in just three-four months time.
But what had gone wrong with Prime Minister Singh? His biggest drawback is that he refused to read the writing on the wall. It seems just like he was gifted with the PM's post bu party president Sonia Gandhi in 2004, he also waited to be dishonoured by the same leadership when the chips were down. His government struggled on all fronts, be it administrative, economic or foreign policy but Manmohan Singh somehow remained indifferent. He occasionally spoke when the public pressure was extreme and praised hollow showers on Rahul Gandhi, sometimes even at the expense of belittling his own position.
The Congress's comedy of errors kept itself busy but the rest of the polity looked in awe. The pathetic standard of engaging with the ground reality allowed leaders like Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal rise like meteors and amid them, the stubborn Manmohan Singh and his party looked outdated objects. Rahul Gandhi's task of rediscovering the party when the top leadership is struggling would have never been easy and he hasn't succeeded so far. The Congress is two year late in doing the right thing. Now, when the Modis and Kejriwals have stolen the wind and are preparing for a fight among themselves, the crown prince looks to be a distant third in the race.
In 2004, the BJP had lost because of some serious drawbacks and the dual leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh looked a fresh alternative to the people of India. But the BJP has come a long way since the Vajpayee-Advani days and in a truly democratic style, handed over the leadership to the man who suits the moment. The Congress, on the other hand, continued with the same combination, thanks to the initial reluctance of the crown prince, and now is in danger of paying the price of not matching the footsteps with time.
The fate of the Congress now rests with the fate of Rahul Gandhi. It is an irony that a party which was once the other name of social coalition and accommodating pluralism, is now entirely dependent on the deeds of a single individual. He has to fight corruption, reconnect the party with the aam aadmi, democratise the party and also present a vision to the nation. What is even worse is that he has almost nothing to take from his predecessor, whom the country sees as a liability now.