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NEW DELHI: The Congress on Friday welcomed the Election Commission’s announcement of the schedule of assembly elections in four states and a Union territory and said people will give a “befitting reply” to the BJP for its “anti-people” policies.

The Opposition party also hoped that the Election Commission, fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities, will conduct the elections impartially without any “fear or favour”.

Reacting to the announcement of the poll schedule by the Election Commission, senior Congress leader Pawan Kumar Bansal said, “We are confident that the people of the four states and a Union Territory will give a befitting reply to the BJP for its mis-governance and anti-people policies.”

“The BJP will be defeated and democracy will win again. Feelings will awaken for the bright future of the people,” the AICC in-charge administration said.

Voting for the five assembly elections will begin on March 27, with West Bengal conducting the maximum eight phases continuing till April 29, and votes for the polls in the four states and one union territory will be counted on May 2, the Election Commission said on Friday.

Some Congress leaders raised questions over the the Election Commission (EC) announcing eight-phase assembly polls in West Bengal.

While senior Congress leader Tariq Anwar alleged that the poll panel in a way has tried to help the BJP, Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan wondered if there were any “nefarious plans”.

“If voting for Kerala-140, Tamil Nadu-234 and Puducherry-30 (total 404 seats) can be conducted in a single phase, why Assam-126 and West Bengal-294 (total 420 seats) require 7 & 8 phases? Are there any nefarious plans?” Chavan asked.

Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill too lashed out at the EC as well as the Centre.

“On one hand, the BJP Govt parrots idea of ‘One Nation One Election’ and on the other hand EC announces 8 phase election for Bengal which shows vast difference between fictional world of sloganeering and reality of implementation,” he said in a tweet.

Bansal slammed the BJP over its policies such as demonetisation and GST and said the government is to be squarely blamed for rising fuel prices and inflation which has hurt the common man.

Asked about its alliances and poll preparation, Bansal said, “We are presently in touch with all our allies and all our associations and electoral alliances will be worked out. We will be in a position to share something only when the final picture is clear.”

On a question about Opposition’s scepticism of EVMs, Bansal said, “Our demand at this juncture is not going to matter. The Election Commission has announced this, I would with all the respect say — today this question is conjecturer, because the dates have been announced.”

“They have worked out the schedule, they have moved on with the premise of EVMs, so whatever stands we had taken from time to time. we have to go by this,” Bansal said.

“We only expect the Election Commission to go by the rule book and conduct the elections in a fair manner without fear or favour,” he said.

As many as 18.68 crore voters will be eligible to cast their votes at 2.7 lakh polling stations for 824 assembly seats across Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

The elections for the five assemblies are expected to witness a determined attempt by the BJP to put a strong show, including in Assam where it is already in power, as well as in West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry where the saffron party has been pushing hard in recent years.