Polling is underway for 2,709 panchayats in 109 taluks of Karnataka in the second phase of the gram panchayat elections on Sunday. The polling began at 7 am and will continue till 5 pm in 20,728 booths, the state election commission officials said. The polling has not yet picked up the pace in most of the places but the poll officials expressed the confidence that it would gain momentum by afternoon and there will be a good voter turnout by the end of the day. According to the officials, there are 1,05,431 candidates in the fray for 39,378 seats. A total of 3,697 candidates have already been elected unopposed, they said. The election is happening amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and those who have tested positive or are under primary\/secondary contacts can vote in the last hour of polling, they said. In view of the pandemic, masks and social distancing have been made mandatory. There will be hand sanitisers at all the polling stations. The number of voters in each booth has been limited to 1,000 from 1,500. About 80,000 police and security personnel have been deployed for the safe conduct of elections. Besides them, Anganwadi, ASHA workers and Health Department officials have been roped in for poll duty. Though these polls dont take place on party symbols, all political parties have put in efforts to ensure that the candidate supported by them wins, so as to have their hold on grassroots level politics, which may prove advantageous for them in taluk or zilla panchayat and even assembly polls whenever it happens. Polling for 3,019 panchayats in 117 taluks were held in the first phase on December 22, and the counting for both the phases will take place on December 30.