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Former army chief Gen VK Singh — a controversial figure during his army tenure and after — along with nearly three dozen senior retired defence officers joined the BJP on Saturday amid promises to set up ex-servicemen welfare commission and a war memorial once the NDA government comes to power.
Singh – who was locked in a row with the government over his retirement age – was the first serving army chief to drag the government to the SC.
Singh’s induction into the BJP made him the first army chief to jump into electoral politics. He could be fielded from either Bhiwani in Haryana or Jhunjhunu constituency in Rajasthan in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
The army chief was quick to dismiss suggestions that retired officers joining a political party would politicise the 1.1 million-strong army. He isn’t the first army officer to make the switch.
Former army chief Gen (retd) Shankar Roychoudhury (1994-97) was elected as a Rajya Sabha member from West Bengal Bengal in 1999 as an independent seat.
Among the over 30 officers who joined the party along with Singh, are Lt Gen P Chaudhary, Lt Gen AK Chopra and veteran Special Forces officer Lt Gen PC Katoch who led the commando team into Golden Temple for the 1984 Operation Bluestar.
The controversial army officer had initially associated with Anna Hazare’s “crusade against corruption” after his retirement 19 months ago and had ruled out joining BJP in September.
On Saturday, Singh called the BJP the only party committed to strengthening the country which would “bring a government that is stable, strong and takes decisions in national interest”.
BJP hopes Singh’s induction would send a message to over 14 lakh serving and nearly 26 lakh retired servicemen. The Congress has also tried to woo this segment with ‘One-Rank-One-Pension’ scheme.