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Former army chief joins BJP, Rahul reaches out to Varanasi's 'aam admi'
Saturday March 1, 2014 8:11 PM, IANS

Former Indian Army chief General V.K. Singh Saturday joined the BJP while Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi wooed rickshaw pullers and auto drivers in Varanasi as the two big political rivals continued to mobilise support for the Lok Sabha polls. The AAP, meanwhile, released its third list of 20 candidates.

After appearing to join Anna Hazare's anti-corruption bandwagon, the controversial former army general joined the BJP, calling it the only "nationalist party" and expressed his desire to "work for the nation".

"We dedicated our lives serving on the borders, and now we want to work in interest of the nation, with nationalist forces," the 63-year-old retired general said.

"So, we have decided to move with the BJP to bring a government which is stable, strong and takes decisions in national interest," added Singh who retired in May 2012.

Using the occasion to attack Congress led United Progressive Alliance, BJP President Rajnath Singh said: "The government had not paid enough attention to the armed forces."

"India's defence and security system has been neglected by the current dispensation for many years. Many holes are visible in the system," Rajnath Singh said.

Meanwhile, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi interacted with rickshaw pullers and auto drivers in Varanasi, in a bid to reach out to the 'aam aadmi', and later prayed at the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple.

The Congress leader flew to Varanasi around noon and drove to the cantonment railway station amid tight security.

As his cavalcade drove through the lanes of the temple city, people lined up on the roadside to catch a glimpse of him.

Accompanied by party general secretary Madhusudan Mistry and union Minister Oscar Fernandes, Gandhi spoke to the rickshaw pullers and enquired about health and insurance facilities during the 90-minute interaction.

Gandhi directed Fernandes to ask the Uttar Pradesh government to provide insurance and medical benefits to all families living below the poverty line.

He later prayed at the Kashi Vishwanath temple and performed a "rudra abhishek", a special prayer offered to Lord Shiva.

Meanwhile, the two-year-old Aam Aadmi Party announced its third list of candidates that included some well-known faces.

Savita Bhatti, wife of television actor late Jaspal Bhatti, will contest from Chandigarh, which is currently represented by former union minister Pawan Kumar Bansal while Anand Kumar, a professor in Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University will contest from north-east Delhi, represented by the Congress leader Jai Prakash Agarwal.

The party had earlier announced two lists of 20 and 30 candidates.

The AAP also announced seven candidates each from Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, two from Kerala and one from Bihar.

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