New Delhi: Two dictators of two of the three major powers of the world, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, have been reconfirmed to power, one for life, and the other nearly so. The third leader of the third world power, the United States’ Donald Trump, cannot hide his envy of Xi and Putin’s unbridled powers and desires the same. If Trump somehow escapes Robert Mueller’s investigations of his underhand Russian dealings and 2016 presidential election foul-play, he will get a second term and a chance to follow someway in the footsteps of Xi and Putin. If Mueller nails the US president and the Trump White House comes down like an edifice of cards, America will emerge weaker from the scandal and be more vulnerable to the joint machinations of Russia and China. Whether Trump wins or loses, democracy faces hard times ahead.

The situation looks grimmer for democracy if you consider the hopeless mess of India, the largest practitioner of that system. India is headed for general elections next year. Shocking defeats for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in two Lok Sabha by-polls in the politically all-important state of Uttar Pradesh have destroyed the incentive for Narendra Modi to advance the general election. Conventional wisdom before the latest reverses suggested a dip in the BJP’s Lok Sabha tally for 2019 but not enough to dislodge Modi from power. Now, all bets are off. Modi may or not remain prime minister. There are enough men and women in top echelons of the government who are eying his position. Politicking does not interest this writer but its impact on geopolitics certainly does: And it will not be to India’s advantage at all.

The country today faces a paradoxical situation. As atrocious and hopeless as Narendra Modi’s BJP government is in matters of governance, the BJP still outclasses its principal rival in national politics, the Congress, as an electoral machine. If the Uttar Pradesh by-poll trend strengthens going forward to the 2019 general election, the loser will be the BJP but the winner shan’t be the Congress. The winners would be the two regional rivals turned allies of convenience who made possible this trend, namely the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party. They are unlikely to encourage a Congress government at the Centre without some serious political extortions whose natures may not be proper to divulge currently. The Uttar Pradesh anti-BJP trend will, in any event, fail to serve the purposes of the Congress party if it fails to make a brilliant return in the rest of the country. That possibility definitely exists and completes the circle of paradox. Awful as an electoral machine today, the Congress, however, possesses some of the best governance talents in the country. It has doughty experts in economics, diplomacy, geopolitics, internal security, internal political management, and so forth: every department, in other words, where the ruling BJP has manifested signal failures.

India’s dark fate in the immediate future, in sum, is this. While the most competent party of governance does not look capable of winning power, the political party that may still sneak back to office will magnify the disasters of the present Modi government. Modi, himself, may compound his blunders, or a weaker replacement from the BJP-RSS stable will leave the country teetering on the edge of the abyss. Set this dismal picture alongside the hardening geopolitics of a totalitarian combine of Russia and China laying the global rules, and you are suddenly faced with dark clouds massing over the country. Flirtations of Trump’s White House with Vladimir Putin’s autocracy add to the oppressive burden.

The situation promises to get quite worse without early redemption. The only means to save India is for national parties to join governance talent with powerful electoral appeal. The prospect of this looks bleak.