If Time magazine Asia edition cover story— with the caption "India needs a reboot. Is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh up to the job?" — was the understatement of the year, the resultant brouhaha has certainly been over the top.
Clearly, this is not the worst report card the PM has received. He has been called far worse things, far less euphemistically. Nationally. And internationally. So what explains the over-defensive reaction which saw Congress leaders going into an overdrive in trying to rubbish the "biased" coverage of the magazine?
That the beleaguered BJP and its vocal cheerleaders were quick to remind all and sundry about the rah-rah Narendra Modi cover the magazine had done earlier in March, followed by an opinion poll featuring the Gujarat leader, was only par for the course.
So perhaps the only way to parse the Congress reaction is in the timing because the story — even if it, just as the Modi story, is only in the Asian edition of the international magazine — comes just when the party was hoping for a turnaround in its fortunes with the exit of Pranab Mukherjee from the finance ministry, and the Prime Minister taking charge of the economy.
That the resultant hype over how the PM as FM means business, following the initial spurt in the stock market, has been punctured by this story is perhaps what irks the UPA and Congress spin meisters. Not to miss the fact that the magazine seems to have been provided access to 7, Race Course Road prior to this story.
If the Time story on Narendra Modi in March had appeared almost simultaneously with a Brookings profile of Narendra Modi, this time the story on the prime minister is accompanied by an article for the Project Syndicate by Professors Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya titled The Bell Tolls for India’s Congress Party.
Some of the reactions on Twitter: