Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is among four Indians who share space with U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao on the Forbes 2009 list of the World’s Most Powerful People.

Those who dominate the list were chosen based on the number of people they influence, their ability to project power beyond their immediate sphere of influence and their control of financial resources.

For Singh, a self-effacing economist who led a resurgent Congress Party to a landslide victory in the general election this year, the accolade is a reflection of how far he has come since his name was proposed as an obvious choice for the post of Prime Minister.

The Congress’ showing in the recent assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh had set the trend for its performance in subsequent by-elections where it won 10 of the 31 seats contested.

The message was clear. Independent of the shackles of its communist allies, the party led by Singh (placed 36th on the Forbes list) is now free to aggressively push much-needed reforms.