Determined to salvage his fading reputation as the hero of India's economic miracle and alarmed by mounting signs of economic stress, Singh moved quickly to announce one of the boldest reforms since he became premier in 2004 - opening the country's $450 billion retail market to foreign operators.
He and his cabinet hoped the move would unleash desperately needed flows of foreign investment and help ease supply-side pressures feeding inflation, which is stuck near double-digits.
"He was really focused on getting things moving, and knew he needed to act," said the political insider.
But Singh's green light for supermarket giants like Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Carrefour to enter India provoked an immediate and ferocious backlash from his political opponents, and even some of the ruling coalition allies on whom Congress relies to remain in power.
The firebrand leader of one of those coalition partners, Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress party, was reportedly so incensed with Singh that when he telephoned her to make his case for the reform she refused to take the call.
Within a fortnight, the government had capitulated and suspended the plan indefinitely.
Image: Wayside vendors burn an effigy of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a protest against the entry of foreign retail in Bhubaneswar.