Good morning.

For months, the consensus was that India’s Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) was going to win a thumping majority in the general election. A few days ago, exit polls indicated the BJP was going to secure a sweeping victory, and could even gain seats to win a two-thirds majority in parliament. The party’s confidence came through most clearly in its highly publicised goal of winning 400 seats.

But the pollsters, pundits and the BJP were significantly off the mark. Although Narendra Modi won his second re-election as expected, the BJP lost its majority in parliament. After seven long weeks that saw more than 640 million voters cast their ballots, the BJP secured 240 seats, falling well short of the 272 needed to govern with a majority and a significant decline from the 303 seats it won in the 2019 election. The results were so shocking that one pollster broke down and cried on live television.

Opposition parties won 235 seats and the BJP’s coalition partners won 52. The Congress party, India’s main opposition, described the result as a “moral victory”. Over the last 10 years, Modi has elevated himself to a quasi-religious figure in Indian society – but the bubble seems to be bursting. Despite the fact that the BJP fell short of their lofty goals, Modi insisted this was still a victory and that voters “placed their faith” in his alliance. A third term is something most leaders would brag about, but Modi’s overconfidence has left the party feeling as if they lost.

For today’s newsletter, I spoke with the Guardian’s south Asia correspondent, Hannah Ellis-Petersen, about what this result will mean for Modi’s BJP and India.

Five big stories

  1. Israel-Gaza war | At least 30 Palestinians including five children have been killed in an Israeli airstrike on a UN school housing displaced people in al-Nuseirat, in the central Gaza Strip, medical officials have said, with dozens more wounded. The Israeli military confirmed it had targeted a UN school in al-Nuseirat, saying it had been housing Hamas terrorists from the 7 October attack on Israel who were planning further attacks.

  2. Wales | The Welsh first minister, Vaughan Gething, has lost a no-confidence vote less than 12 weeks after taking office, following a series of scandals that have called into question his judgment and transparency.

  3. General election 2024 | The UK Statistics Authority has opened an investigation into remarks made by Rishi Sunak about the economy “going gangbusters” amid concerns that politicians could misuse economic data in the run-up to the election. The watchdog’s intervention came soon after the chair of the organisation began a review of Sunak’s claim that the Treasury calculated that Labour would raise taxes by £2,000 for everyone if it won the election.

  4. Climate crisis | Fossil fuel companies are the “godfathers of climate chaos” and should be banned in every country from advertising akin to restrictions on big tobacco, the secretary general of the United Nations has said while delivering dire new scientific warnings of global heating.

  5. NHS | A cyber-attack thought to have been carried out by a Russian group has forced London NHS hospitals to resurrect long-discarded paper records systems in which porters hand-deliver blood test results because IT networks are disrupted.

In depth: ‘Despite Modi talking about progress, people have not been feeling it’

A man takes a selfie with Rashid Ahmed, 60, an electric rickshaw driver and lookalike of Narendra Modi. Photograph: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters

Narendra Modi has spent the last decade centralising power and nurturing a cult of personality that, just a few days ago, seemed invincible. Modi has used everything in his arsenal to reach the public, from a weekly radio show to holograms and a vast digital campaign designed to disseminate Hindu nationalist propaganda straight to people’s phones.

“He was seen as this powerful, charismatic figure who was viewed as almost above party politics and would bring India back to its former Hindu civilisational greatness,” Hannah says. In her profile of India’s longtime leader, one academic told Hannah that Modi had cast a “messianic spell” on voters. His ascension to an almost God-like figure in Indian society coincided with a period of growing authoritarianism, crony capitalism and declining press freedom.

There is almost no way of holding Modi accountable, Hannah says – he made himself unassailable. “Modi has never done a press conference, he has an overwhelming majority in parliament and his critics often find themselves behind bars or harassed by government agencies”.

The opposition, meanwhile, was widely viewed as weak, disorganised and dynastic – the once dominant Congress party is still run by the same family that took it over in the wake of India’s independence. Despite all of this, it seems as though parts of the country are seeing through the “Modi myth”, Hannah says.

What changed?

On the campaign trail, Modi wove a narrative of economic progress and expansive welfare programmes. This is a partial story, however – wealth inequality in India is at a six-decade high, with the top 1% owning 40% of wealth. “This narrative of growth has not trickled down to the average person,” Hannah says. “On the ground there was growing frustration, anger and discontent because people’s lives were not getting any better. Despite Modi talking about all this progress, people have not been feeling it.”

Modi relied heavily on Hindu nationalist rhetoric but it was not enough to distract from the economic reality facing many Indian voters. Youth unemployment is high, despite young people becoming more educated than ever before. “There are millions of people with undergraduate and masters degrees who are forced to go back into agriculture as there are no quality jobs available for them,” Hannah says. Wages have remained stagnant since Modi has been in power, while inflation has increased the cost of basic goods. “He tried to blame the previous government for the problems, but after 10 years people are holding him accountable for the fact that their lives are not getting better,” Hannah says.

The national picture

The most critical state for Modi was Uttar Pradesh, a political bellwether and a BJP heartland, where his party lost dozens of seats. On top of the economic challenges facing many people, there was a strong concern among Dalits and lower caste groups that the Modi government intended to rewrite the constitution. The opposition’s big narrative was that Modi and the BJP would undermine the secular constitution and enshrine India as a Hindu country, thereby undoing some of their constitutional rights.

The coalition

The BJP has secured the backing of its political allies, who are collectively known as the democratic alliance (NDA), giving them a total of 293 parliamentary seats which is enough to form a governing majority. Modi is expected to be sworn in over the weekend. For the first time the smaller parties – many of which are secular – are in an extraordinarily powerful bargaining position. Modi will have to compromise, which could stand in the way of him pushing forward his most hardline Hindu nationalist policies.

Modi’s third term is likely his last, making it the final chance for him to cement his legacy. He is expected to press ahead with policies that try to create a more uniform India, and subjugate the Muslim minority. Modi’s other main goal is to turn India into a developed “$10tn economy” – he believes that is the only way to solve the jobs crisis. This time around, however, he will have to negotiate and listen to other people’s ideas and priorities.

“Part of what enabled him to push forward with such an autocratic agenda and not really be held to account is because he had this aura of untouchability,” Hannah says. “There was this idea that it was impossible to go up against him – now he’s just a prime minister, who can be held accountable by voters”.

What else we’ve been reading

Faiza Shaheen, independent candidate for Chingford and Woodford. Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Guardian
  • The removal of Faiza Shaheen as a Labour candidate last week caused shock waves that were felt well outside Westminster. As she prepares to stand as an independent, the Chingford and Woodford Green hopeful speaks to Zoe Williams. Hannah J Davies, deputy editor, newsletters

  • Rory Carroll reports on the fraught political atmosphere in Ireland, where far-right candidates are vying for seats ahead of the European elections. Nimo

  • Guardian stage editor Chris Wiegand is also the dad of two young daughters, which can only mean one thing: he can’t get away from Taylor Swift. So what happened when he tried to avoid the world’s most ubiquitous pop star for a month? Hannah

  • A combination of climate crisis induced wildfires and bark-eating insects has left northern Europe’s forests on the brink. Patrick Greenfield writes that the impact of this degradation is disastrous for the planet and for wildlife. Nimo

  • ICYMI: Harriet Mansell has a veggie summer menu that will impress even the most committed meat eaters. Hannah

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Alexander Zverev returns to the semi-finals at Roland Garros. Photograph: Mateo Villalba/Getty Images

French Open | Aryna Sabalenka crashed to a 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4 defeat to Russian teenager Mirra Andreeva who will next face Jasmine Paolini, who beat Elena Rybakina 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Alex de Minaur’s thrilling run to the quarter-finals came to an end, outlasted by Alexander Zverev who won 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3 and goes into a semi-final with Casper Ruud.

T20 World Cup | India beat Ireland by eight wickets with 46 balls remaining in New York, in a match that included all of 193 runs.

Football | Saudi Arabia, the likely host of the 2034 World Cup, is facing allegations of widespread use of forced labour among its vast migrant workforce, in a complaint filed at the UN’s International Labour Organization. The complaint alleges migrant workers are subject to a raft of labour rights violations including failing to pay wages, passport confiscation, illegal recruitment fees, debt bondage and preventing workers freely changing jobs.

The front pages

“Sunak lied to country over Labour tax and spend plans, says Starmer” is the Guardian’s front-page lead this morning. “Starmer accuses Sunak of ‘resorting to lies’ over Labour £2000 tax rise claim” – that’s the Financial Times while the Daily Telegraph has “Hunt issues challenge to Starmer over taxes on property”. “We’ll tackle murder law loopholes, vow Tories” says the Times. “At last: a real plan to save Britain’s rivers” and it’s the i’s own, endorsed by environmental groups, says the paper. Away from politics, the Daily Mirror says “Thank you” to D-day veterans. “Our eternal debt to the fallen heroes” – that’s the Daily Mail, and the Daily Express agrees: “Eternally in their debt”. “Camilla’s tears for D-Day hero” says the Metro under a picture of the Queen.

Today in Focus

Aamna Mohdin. Photograph: Alice Zoo/The Guardian

From child refugee to Guardian reporter: one journalist’s extraordinary story

How does it feel to report on the refugee crisis when it’s also the story of your own family? Aamna Mohdin explains

Cartoon of the day | Ben Jennings

Illustration: Ben Jennings/The Guardian

The Upside

A bit of good news to remind you that the world’s not all bad

Maya Hattenstone. Photograph: Maya Hattenstone/Simon Hattenstone

As the Guardian’s series on neurodiversity continues, Maya Hattenstone writes about the joy she derives from attending festivals and football matches. “Put me in a one-to-one and I freeze,” writes Hattenstone, who has a type of autism called pathological demand avoidance syndrome. “In a group of people around a table I say nothing – and leave as soon as possible. But give me a huge, surging crowd and I couldn’t be happier.”

As well as going to Manchester City games for more than 20 years, she also went to Glastonbury for the first time in 2023. In a swell of people, she says, “nobody cares what I say, nobody can see me. So much of the rest of the time I feel different – isolated, unwanted and painfully self aware. But in a crowd I lose all my inhibitions and feel that I fit in easily to the human race. I feel that I belong. And it’s bloody brilliant.”

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Bored at work?

And finally, the Guardian’s puzzles are here to keep you entertained throughout the day. Until tomorrow.