Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Friday that Rahul Gandhi has “outstanding credentials” to become India's next leader.  So far,  Gandhi has done little to demonstrate what exactly these are.

In only his third press conference in ten years, Singh gave the strongest hint so far that Gandhi would be nominated as the Congress’ prime ministerial choice.

“Rahul Gandhi has outstanding credentials to be nominated as the candidate and I hope the party will take that decision at the appropriate time,” he said.

The All India Congress Committee is expected to announce the party’s prime ministerial candidate after a meeting on January 17.

Despite Singh's strong preference for Gandhi, the claims of the young MP from Amethi still need to be substantiated.

Gandhi's supporters say that he is a compelling secular figure who stands above caste and religion. Besides, he is probably the only figure whom the various factions of the Congress would agree to make their choice,

Though Gandhi might be a consensus candidate, his candidature would alienate voters disgusted by the Congress's inability to shake itself free of the all-pervasive influence of the Gandhi dynasty. If elected, Gandhi would be the fourth prime minister in his family.

Gandhi has much stacked up against him.

As his recent speeches have shown, he is not an especially strong communicator. He has not been effective about making a positive case for himself or a negative one against Narendra Modi, who hopes to lead the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party to victory.

In addition, Gandhi has failed to make an impression in Parliament. He has made only two speeches in the House, both on the issue of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill. One of them was in the winter session that concluded on December 16, when he vociferously proclaimed his support for the anti-corruption bill.

Despite his criticism of corruption, Gandhi remained silent in 2012 when Arvind Kejriwal, the convenor of the Aam Admi Party, accused his brother-in-law Robert Vadra of purchasing land in Haryana with interest-free loans from real-estate conglomerate DLF. A report prepared by IAS officer Ashok Khemka validated this charge in August 2013.

As for his powers of governance, since his entry into politics in 2004, Gandhi has been unsuccessful in attempts to rebuild the Congress Party. His efforts spectacularly backfired in the 2012 UP state election. Despite Gandhi's personally taking charge of the campaign, the Congress failed to increase their tally very much.

Gandhi’s showing as party vice president has not been much brighter. He has held that position since March. Although the Congress won a huge majority in Karnataka in elections last year, this was due to the strong anti-incumbency sentiment against the corrupt BJP chief minister BS Yeddyurappa. However, in state elections of December, the Congress lost heavily in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. It won only in Mizoram.

Even as he has been given charge of re-energising the Congress, Gandhi has seemed unable to communicate effectively with its leaders across the country. Though he plays an important role in evolving the party's positions on vital matters, he has imperiously criticised the statements and actions of his own administrators.

In September 2013, for instance, he denounced as “complete nonsense” an ordinance protecting convicted MPs and MLAs from immediate disqualification shortly after the cabinet had passed it.

In December, Gandhi objected to the decision made by the Congress government in Maharashtra to reject a report on the controversial Adarsh building scam, involving four party chief ministers.

If Manmohan Singh and the Congress want to pitch for Rahul Gandhi’s elevation only on the basis of his performance so far, they will have to try much harder.