By Archie Bland

Good morning. The biggest election in the world started on 19 April, and it is only halfway through. There are 969 million voters in India, 2,600 parties, 15 million election officials and one polling booth situated more than 15,000 feet high in the Himalayan mountains – but one party, and one man, sit confidently at the top of the pile.

While the BJP and prime minister, Narendra Modi, are widely expected to secure a third term in office when the votes are counted next month, the contest so far has not all been smooth sailing. Today’s newsletter, with the Guardian’s Delhi correspondent, Hannah Ellis-Petersen, is about the economic challenges to Modi’s hopes of securing a massive majority, why he has leaned into blatant Islamophobia on the campaign trail, and the opposition weaknesses that mean he is likely to win anyway. Here are the headlines.

Five big stories

  1. Labour | Keir Starmer is under fresh pressure over the former Tory MP Natalie Elphicke’s defection after the president of the Trades Union Congress said her vocal support for anti-strike laws should be “incompatible” with the Labour whip. Matt Wrack’s intervention follows claims over the weekend, denied by Elphicke, that she lobbied the justice secretary to interfere in her then husband’s rape case.
  2. Israel-Gaza war Banning arms exports to Israel would help Hamas, UK foreign secretary David Cameron said on Sunday, as tens of thousands fled Rafah in fear of an impending IDF assault. Cameron also said that the UK could not support an offensive in Rafah because Israel has not presented “an absolutely clear plan” to protect civilians.
  3. Education | Universities are reporting a steep drop in international students applying to come to the UK, amid warnings that further restrictions on student visas would torpedo a vital flow of talent for Britain’s creative industries. A poll of 75 institutions found that nine out of 10 had fewer international applications for the next academic year.
  4. Ukraine | Ukraine’s top military commander admitted on Sunday that the situation in the north-eastern Kharkiv region was “difficult” as Russia continued a major assault in the area. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin removed his longtime ally Sergei Shoigu as defence minister in the most significant reshuffle to the military command since the war began.
  5. Baftas | The television industry is “in turmoil” and needs “creative survival solutions” from the UK government, the children’s television presenter Floella Benjamin has said, as she accepted a fellowship at the Bafta TV awards. Big winners at Sunday night’s ceremony included Top Boy, Happy Valley, and The Sixth Commandment.

This story was originally published in Read the full story here.