Putting behind differences within, the Election Commission on Sunday announced an unprecedented seven-phase Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir beginning November 17 and spread over six weeks saying it has taken a "risk" in the backdrop of boycott calls in the Valley. Counting of votes will take place on December 28, nearly two weeks before the end of Governor's rule in the border state on January 9. Ending the uncertainty about the poll process, the three-member Election Commission which was divided on holding elections gave the go ahead thereby signalling an end to the nearly six months of Governor's rule imposed after the Amarnath land row in July this year.  Announcing the schedule for the staggered polls, Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami said voting will take place on November 17, 23, 30 and December 7, 13, 17 and 24. The poll process for the 87-member Assembly has to be completed by December 31 this year, he said. Jammu and Srinagar cities will go to polls in the last phase on Dec 24. The exercise was being undertaken at a "risk" in view of the stand of certain political parties and outfits, he said. On whether parties are ready for polls now, he said "it looks like. First you need to ask if political parties are ready. We are not conducting elections in a vacuum. The issue of availability of central forces was cited for an unprecedented seven-phase polls. "...because we are also having elections elsewhere. So, that is the reason why you would have seen that unlike the last time where there were four phases, this time it is seven," the CEC said. Both the Congress and BJP welcomed the announcement while the regional parties like the NC were guarded in their response. ThePDP was yet to formulate its stand while the Hurriyat Conference and JKLF announced a poll boycott. To a question whether the Commission was apprehensive of low turnout or boycott, Gopalaswami said "we have never said to anybody giving a call for boycott. The EC has never prevented anybody giving a call of his own liking." "What we have depended upon is political parties mobilising their voters and ensuring that the election goes on," he said.  In an apparent reference to a likely poll boycott call to be given by separatists including Hurriyat Conference, the CEC said "...I don't think anybody can enforce a boycott. They can call a boycott but they cannot enforce a boycott." Asked about difference of opinion within three-member Commission, the CEC said "as various issues need to be considered, so each person can take a stand on a particular issue and in a different manner...there are three Election Commissioners and at least there may be three opinions". As soon as the EC announced its decision, Congress spokesperson Shakil Ahmed said "the party is fully prepared for the elections and appeals to the people to vote without any fear." BJP spokesperson Prakash Jawdekar said "we welcome the decision and this has cleared many apprehensions. We are sure that the decision would prove to be a milestone in democratic history of the country and the state of Jammu and Kashmir in specific." Reacting to the EC decision, National Conference Chief Omar Abdullah gave a cautious reaction saying fear was that the polls may see a less turnout but nevertheless the state will see an elected government. "The present dispensation was not able to address people's problems," Omar said. Another regional party, PDP, herded its leaders into the house of its patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and were busy to formulate the party view. The reason for an unprecedented seven-phase polls was attributed to availability of central forces. "...because we are also having elections elsewhere. So, that is the reason why you would have seen that unlike the last time where there were four phases, this time it is seven," the CEC said. Asked about the Commission's concern about low turnout, Gopalaswami said "you see the turnout was a consideration only with the relevance to the political parties willingness. If political parties are not ready, then nobody is going to canvass." Observing that the Commission has prepared contingency plans to supplement the state machinery for conducting the polls, Gopalaswami said about 3,500 government employees from outside could supplement the state machinery. "Provided it is necessary, even in 2002, the state staff was supplemented by staff from outside. So as a supplementary measure, we had decided this," he said. The state, which has 65,38,111 electors, is currently under the Governor's rule. The state assembly was dissolved following political instability after the PDP withdrew its support to the Congress-led government in the wake of Amarnath land row. The span of Governor's rule was to end on January ten, next year. The CEC said that in view of the recent developments in the state, the Commission had a series of meetings with political parties, Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta and senior civil and police officers. The Centre has assured the Commission that adequate number of contingents of central police forces would be made available to ensure the safety, security and free movement of electors, candidates, leaders of political parties, polling personnel and guarding of polling materials and polling stations, he said.