NEW DELHI: India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh marks his 80th birthday on Wednesday in fighting fashion with signs he has rediscovered his "mojo" as a reformer after being written off as a dithering under-achiever.
The soft-spoken Singh, India's first Sikh prime minister, is widely expected to stand down at the next elections due to be held in 2014.
While he earned a place in the history books as the man who lit the fuse for India's rapid growth in the 1990s when he was finance minister, his reputation has taken a battering as premier -- especially since his 2009 re-election.
Time magazine branded him "The Underachiever" on its front cover earlier this year while Singh's office got into a spat with the Washington Post after it said he had "transformed himself from an object of respect to one of ridicule".
But a sudden blitz of reforms designed to revive an economy in which growth is stuck around three-year lows has also given his own image a shot in the arm with the Economic Times proclaiming he had got his "mojo back".
And his stock has also risen sharply with the business sector, which warmly applauded his moves to open the retail, aviation and broadcasting sectors to more foreign investment.
According to Adi Godrej, president of the Confederation of Indian Industry, the premier has "unambiguously sent a message that the government is determined to see through the reforms".
Singh, who always wears a blue turban, became premier when Congress took power in 2004, ending a long stint in the political wilderness.
His first term was relatively smooth-sailing, with growth almost reaching double digits.
But after success in the 2009 polls, his reputation has been hit during a second term marked by a litany of corruption scandals and policy paralysis caused in part by an impasse in parliament with the main opposition BJP party.
Deepak Lalwani, head of India-focused financial consultancy Lalcap in London, said Singh's sudden burst of activity signalled a desire to salvage his reputation before he leaves office, employing a cricketing metaphor.
"In his last innings he would like to leave on a strong wicket -- he wants to leave a legacy that he was able to revive the economy again," Lalwani told