New Delhi: Parliamentarians and legislators across India began voting on Monday to elect the country's 14th President in a direct contest between ruling NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and opposition-backed Meira Kumar.
Polling to choose the successor of incumbent Pranab Mukherjee, who demits office on July 25, started simultaneously in the national and state capitals at 10 a.m.
All elected MPs and MLAs are eligible to cast their vote. The voting is through secret ballot.
As voting picked up, many MPs, including women members, were seen queuing up in Parliament House outside the polling booth in Room No 62 for the voting that ends at 5 p.m.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah were among the first to cast their votes in Parliament.
Modi, clad in a beige colour sleeveless jacket over a white kurta-pyjama, reached the parliament premises early to vote. It is also the first day of the over three-week monsoon session of Parliament.
The Prime Minister said the session was expected to herald in a new hope for India.
"Today the monsoon session begins. Like the monsoon brings hope, this session also brings same spirit of hope," Modi said before casting his vote.
Shah, who is an MLA from Gujarat and was allowed to cast his vote in Parliament, also used his franchise in the contest between Kovind and Kumar, who was a former Lok Sabha Speaker.
MPs were voying on green paper ballots and state lawmakers on pink. They cannot use their own pens to vote and were given unique serial-numbered special pens with violet ink.
After voting ends, ballot boxes from the states would be flown to Delhi and stored in Parliament.
The votes would be counted and results would be announced on July 20.
"Kovindji will win with a comfortable and respectable margin," Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said before leaving for Parliament to vote.
The total value of votes of the electoral college is 10,98,903, and the NDA candidate is slated to cross the halfway-mark and get about 63 per cent votes.
If elected, 71-year-old Kovind will be the second Dalit to become President after K.R. Narayanan, who was the 10th President.