Demanding the immediate suspension of the 'head count' of minorities in the defence forces, the Bharatiya Janata Party Friday cautioned the government against the move which it said was "fraught with dangerous implications" and aimed at dividing the army on religious lines.
Raising the issue in the Lok Sabha during zero hour, Leader of the Opposition Lal Kishenchand Advani said poverty and backwardness was not a sectarian issue, but ordering head counts of the forces on the basis of religion would lead to sectarian divisions.
Accusing the government of pursuing "vote bank politics", which had already done a lot of damage to the country, he asked that at least the armed forces be kept out of it.
The former BJP president drew the attention of the government towards the "spontaneous reaction and sense of outrage among the people across the country".
Even the chiefs of the three armed forces had conveyed their serious concern over the matter, he said.
While appealing to the government not to make it a "prestige issue" and suspend the survey immediately, Advani said no government since independence had ever thought of ordering any such survey which could be dangerous to the unity of the country.
The selection in the defence forces was never done on caste, creed or religious basis. "What exactly is the message the government proposed to send across the country by this?" he asked.
Advani also referred to a book published abroad which talked about the communal composition of the Indian armed forces. He described the thesis of the book as "pernicious", as it tried to draw a parallel between the small percentage of minorities in the armed forces and incidents of communal violence in the country.
He said while Justice Rajinder Sachar distanced himself from that thesis, he allowed himself to be a "conduit to the pernicious thesis" by ordering a head count in the defence forces.
"Justice Sachar's approach is flawed and insulting to the army," he said.
Urging Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee to view the matter objectively to ascertain what "we are going to achieve by a database in the army after 58 years of independence", Advani demanded the immediate suspension of the exercise.