New Delhi: One sees a great leadership vacuum in this country after Narendra Modi. It is no comfort that a related question dogged the early life of the Republic: “After Nehru who?” In the specific context of the international situation, Jawaharlal Nehru’s India cannot be compared to Modi’s present time.

The Cold War had been driven to the edge of thermonuclear horror in the twilight of Nehru’s career. India was newly independent and could do little to influence the course of international relations. NAM was not taken seriously. Having embarked on a socialist model of economic development, Nehru scarcely strengthened India to leave a mark on the world. The debacle of 1962 had further destroyed Nehru. So there was really no urgency about the question, “After Nehru who?” There was a weary acceptance that there would be more of the same mediocrity, with India making one mistake after another on a faltering course.

In justice to Lal Bahadur Shastri, he far exceeded the expectations. He redressed the military failures under Nehru; and in a narrow sense, Indira Gandhi proved greatly more capable than her father.

Now turn to the present. The Cold War has been over for twenty-five years. Finally, after centuries, India has the potential to become a Great Power. It, however, faces a profoundly disquieting external situation. Unless the country’s domestic politics matches up to international requirements, India will lose the chance to be a Great Power. After Narendra Modi, this writer sees no political leader with the vision, genius and mass base to guide India to greatness.

This far-reaching statement does not embrace Modi’s senior colleagues in the government, some of who show talent, and may yet prove worthy of succeeding him. Still, the Bharatiya Janata Party is one of the constituents of the political establishment. It is a large and weighty constituent no doubt, but it does not represent the entire political establishment.

The non-BJP political establishment runs thin in leadership material of the sort that can match Modi’s statesmanship and guide India to eminence overseas. Conceivably the only non-BJP leader to show promise is Nitish Kumar, but he does not control even one state fully, and his national leadership path is firmly blocked by the champion cipher, Rahul Gandhi.

Between Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Bannerjee, this writer is not sure who to despair about more. Mamata has made a colossal fool of herself over a normal military logistics exercise. It reminds you of a fake story of an army coup-in-the-making published with screaming headlines in one of the national papers some time ago. Could you imagine Mamata leading India internationally? She came with zero vision to Bengal and Bengal has stagnated since.

Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, has proved both Hegel and Marx right about the inevitable decline of dynasties. Marx savaged Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew in a slim volume called the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte but did not live long enough to see how really awful the subject of his work proved for France. Louis Bonaparte is now singled out for France’s 20th century strategic paralysis that shows no signs of ending.

India cannot survive a similar catastrophe. The international situation is bound to get even more turbulent in the years ahead and the country needs an able helmsman at the top. Despite the incoming American President, Donald Trump’s best intentions and efforts, the United States and Russia appear to be heading for a showdown. The prospects of this will increase once the Islamist/ ISIS threats are neutralized.

Russia is also determined to solidify relations with China and has revived its early 20th century pivot to the Far East which ended in defeat at the hands of Japan in 1905. Japan views the growing Sino-Russian closeness with trepidation and it itself seems on shaky terrain with the incoming Trump administration. Japan would expect support from India to rise and counter the Chinese threat in the Asia-Pacific. The impact of all these moves and alliances will be felt in India’s neighbourhood.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has displayed consummate leadership skills and talent to meet the new international challenges. It is the post-Modi leadership deficit that unnerves this writer. As India rises, its domestic politics is contrarily stigmatized by growing juvenility. It appears Narendra Modi would have to carry the burden for longer than he has anticipated. It is not a state of affairs he is likely to appreciate.