BJP supporters’ group registers under US law
An overseas group of Bharatiya Janata Party supporters announced on Thursday that it registered with American authorities under a US law that requires groups to disclose any ties with a foreign political entity, a move that came amid reports that it may be under investigation for election interference -- a claim that it rejected.
The Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) said it “voluntarily” registered under FARA or the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which makes it mandatory for any foreign principals engaged in political activities to declare their engagement and financial transactions.
As per the FARA website, the Act enacted in 1938, “requires certain agents of foreign principals who are engaged in political activities or other activities specified under the statute to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents. The FARA Unit of the Counter-intelligence and Export Control Section (CES) in the National Security Division (NSD) is responsible for the administration and enforcement of FARA.”
For the mission and objective of the BJP as the foreign principal, the OFBJP said in the registration form: “Advocating for welfare social policies, self-reliance, robust economic growth, foreign policy driven by a nationalist agenda, and strong national defense for India.”
Adapa V Prasad, one of the three signatories of the registration form, denied the registration was compelled by a US investigation of the organisation as had been contended by some. “OFBJP has voluntarily registered under FARA with DOJ, he said, adding: “OFBJP is not under any investigation,” he added.
A response was awaited from the department of justice to a request from Hindustan Times to confirm or deny an investigation was under way.
The announcement came shortly after Pieter Friedrich, a US-based researcher specialising in South Asia, tweeted that the US chapter of the OFBJP is reportedly under investigation by Justice Department. Friedrich claimed the OFBJP-US mobilised 1000s of Indian-Americans to travel to India to campaign for the BJP and is reportedly under investigation by the Justice Department.
Vijay Chauthaiwale, who heads the Foreign Cell of the party too denied the allegations. He said the OFBJP-US did a self evaluation and following consultations with legal experts chose to voluntarily register under FARA. “There is no financial transaction between the party (BJP) and OFBJP-US. They however carry out messaging for the BJP in the US; organise programmes for visiting leaders, etc.”
Chauthaiwale also lashed out at Friedrich and said “where is the proof that it is under investigation.”