Profile: Manmohan Singh
Not long ago, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was hailed as a rare statesman, respected for his integrity.
Widely regarded as the architect of India's economic reforms programme, he is the first Sikh to hold the country's top post.
When Mr Singh guided the Congress party to a decisive election victory in 2009, he vowed that the party would "rise to the occasion".
But the gloss soon began to wear off and his second term as prime minister has been in the news mostly for all the wrong reasons - several corruption scandals involving his cabinet ministers which allegedly cost the country billions of dollars, a parliament stalled by the opposition, and a huge policy paralysis which resulted in a serious economic downturn.
But after months of apparently doing nothing, Mr Singh surprised his critics in September by announcing a slew of measures to revive the economy.
The government hiked the price of diesel, reduced subsidy on cooking gas and announced it was opening up the lucrative retail sector to foreign supermarket chains.
End Quote Manmohan Singh Prime Minister
My silence is better than thousands of answers, I don't know how many questions I dignify”
"Money does not grow on trees and that is why we have made these decisions," Mr Singh explained in an address to the nation even as a key political ally pulled out from his government, reducing it to a minority.
General elections are not due until May 2014 and as Mr Singh has been pledged support by two regional parties in Uttar Pradesh, the government appears safe, at least for the moment.
After eight and a half years of his prime ministership, Mr Singh himself is still viewed as perhaps the cleanest politician in India, but many observers now say that is not enough to lead the country.'Accidental PM'
A studious former academic and bureaucrat, he is known for being self-effacing and has always kept a low profile. His Twitter debut was noticed mostly for its dull entries and limited number of followers.
A man of few words, his calm demeanour had until recently won him many admirers. But, not any more.
In the face of growing criticism from the opposition MPs who demanded answers from him on the coal scandal, he defended his silence by saying "my silence is better than thousands of answers. I don't know how many questions I dignify."
But now, questions are being asked about his leadership qualities.
Critics say there has never been any doubt that Congress party president Sonia Gandhi is the real power centre in India and that Mr Singh has never been fully in charge.
Mr Singh has been described as an "accidental prime minister" who got India's top job after she turned down the post in 2004.
Many also believe that he is just the safe, older figure, keeping the seat warm for the next generation of the Gandhi family.
But at 80, the prime minister is getting on in years and some observers say the recent reforms push may be his last throw of dice.
The biggest triumph during his first five-year term was to bring India out of nuclear isolation by signing a landmark deal with the US.
But the deal came at a price - the government's communist allies withdrew support after protesting against it, and Congress had to make up the lost numbers by enlisting the support of another party amid charges of vote buying.Reformer
Mr Singh rose to political prominence as India's finance minister in 1991, taking over as the country was plunging into bankruptcy.
End Quote Manmohan Singh on becoming finance minister
I'd held all the top civil service jobs, but here was an opportunity to play a political role”
In his maiden speech he famously quoted Victor Hugo, saying that "no power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come".
That served as the launch for an ambitious and unprecedented economic reform programme.
Mr Singh slashed red tape, simplified the tax system and removed stifling controls and regulations to try to create an environment conducive to business.
The economy revived, industry picked up, inflation was checked and growth rates remained consistently high in the 1990s.
He is a strong advocate of a "mixed economy model" with an important role for government-owned companies, especially in infrastructure and agriculture.
His unexpected appointment as finance minister capped a long and illustrious career as an academic and civil servant.
After attending Panjab University he took a master's degree at Cambridge University and a DPhil at Oxford.
He taught economics in universities in India and abroad, including the prestigious Delhi School of Economics and Oxford.'Footnote in history'
In his role as a technocrat, Mr Singh headed India's central bank, advised the government on managing the economy and was a governor with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Mr Singh once told an interviewer that he was "very surprised" when he was invited to become finance minister.
"I didn't believe it. When I asked some friends of mine they said, 'You are going to become the scapegoat. You're going to fail and maybe within six months you will be out'.
"I'd held all the top civil service jobs, but here was an opportunity to play a political role, and there was an odd chance that we would make a success of it, in which case I would have a footnote in India's history," he said.
Manmohan Singh is a man acutely aware of his lack of political mass base. "It is nice to be a statesman, but in order to be a statesman in a democracy you first have to win elections," he once said.
He has never personally won a mass, popular vote, although he may claim the 2009 election serves as such. Rather, other leaders selected him.
When he was the finance minister, he derived his political capital from the then prime minister, PV Narasimha Rao.
As the prime minister, he derives it from Sonia Gandhi - one reason why he has kept his profile low.
When he tried to be elected to India's lower house, in 1999, he was defeated. He sits instead in the upper house, chosen by his own Congress party.Pragmatism
Even so, he has enjoyed massive popular support, not least because he was seen by many as a clean politician untouched by the taint of corruption that has run through many Indian administrations.
A consensus builder, he has found himself presiding over a coalition of sometimes difficult, assertive and potentially unruly regional coalition allies and supporters.
And though he has earned respect for his integrity and intelligence, he also has a reputation for being soft and indecisive.
In office he continued with his programme of economic reforms including debt relief for impoverished farmers and reform of the tax system in a bid to encourage growth.
However, some critics claimed that the pace of reform slowed and he failed to achieve the same momentum he had while finance minister.
As the first Sikh prime minister he made a public apology in parliament for the 1984 riots in which some 3,000 Sikhs were killed.
In his foreign policy, Mr Singh adopted the pragmatic politics pursued by his two predecessors.
He continued the peace process with Pakistan - though this process was hampered by attacks blamed on Pakistani militants, culminating in the Mumbai gun and bomb attack of November 2008.
He tried to end the border dispute with China, brokering a deal to reopen the Nathu La pass into Tibet which had been closed for more than 40 years.
Mr Singh increased financial support for Afghanistan and became the first Indian leader to visit the country for nearly 30 years.
His policy of strengthening ties with the US culminated in a visit to India by the then President George W Bush in 2006 and the signing of a deal giving India access to American nuclear technology.
He angered many opposition politicians by appearing to end relationships with India's oldest ally, Iran, during the confrontation over the latter's nuclear programme.
History in general will remember him for bringing India out of economic and nuclear isolation, although historians may record that he might have been better to retire earlier.