India is about to have a new president.

Voting for the exalted office has commenced and the favourite is Ram Kovind, a 71-year-old lawyer-turned-politician who was until recently governor of the eastern state of Bihar.

Kovind’s ascent to the presidential office would be the first by a leader who started out with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or National Volunteers’ Association, a Hindu nationalist mentor of the BJP and its affiliates.

The president’s role is largely ceremonial but as the custodian of the constitution, the president has played an important role in times of uncertainty, such as when a general election is inconclusive and a decision has to be made about which party is best placed to form a government.

Kovind, who is from the low-caste Dalit community, is facing Meira Kumar, a former parliament speaker and a fellow-Dalit backed by the opposition Congress party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is one of the first to cast his vote in parliament, said he looked forward to working with Kovind.

Members of both houses of parliament and state assemblies will vote on Monday and ballots will be counted on Thursday.

The BJP commands the most votes in parliament and in the states.