For nearly two decades, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the darling of the Indian middle classes, who saw the Oxford- and Cambridge-trained economist as a rare alternative to the stereotype of the uneducated, corrupt and criminal politician.
That love affair had begun to fray at the edges of late, after Singh’s perceived inaction over several corruption scandals that had emerged in his second term as premier, but now, it may finally be over.
As thousands of mostly middle-class Indians across the country demonstrated in support of veteran social activist Anna Hazare’s hunger strike against corruption, the anti-government and anti-Singh mood was very much palpable.
The middle classes have a poor voting record, but their influence on public discourse is highly out of proportion to their electoral strength and a shift in their allegiance should be worrisome for both Singh and his Congress party.
Singh has lost the only popular election he has contested and arguably, his only constituency is the middle class. His greatest advantage vis-a-vis potential rivals within and outside his party is the impression there is no alternative to this honest and upright leader.