The last time Chidambaram was finance minister, in 2004-2008, growth was motoring at a near-double-digit clip, fuelled by the transformational reforms that Singh introduced in 1991 to open up a state-stifled economy.
It will be no easy ride this time.
Growth was just 5.5 percent in the June fiscal quarter, near its slowest rate in three years, in large part due to the global economic crunch. Investment has shrunk and the fiscal deficit has also ballooned, fuelled by hefty subsidies on diesel, kerosene and fertilisers.
"Growth is slowing, there are lots of issues in the world economy. Everybody else is slowing," said Dipak Dasgupta, principal economic adviser in the ministry. "We have to pick up the pace with which we do things."
A key part of Chidambaram's strategy to work around the political gridlock has been to forge better ties with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which frayed under Mukherjee.
The two were at odds over which should come first - fiscal reforms or cutting high interest rates.
The ministry and the RBI are now working on a coordinated plan that would see Chidambaram take the first step by unveiling some fiscal reforms, possibly in September. That could give the central bank room to ease interest rates.
Chidambaram's strategy to improve investor perceptions may already be paying some dividends.
Deutsche Bank analysts returned from a recent trip to Delhi encouraged by the moves to boost infrastructure spending and private investment.
"It's not all doom and gloom," Deutsche said in a research note. "Our recent trip ... left us with the impression that there may be an undue concentration of pessimism which may be ripe for some upside surprise."