US affiliate of BJP registers as foreign agent

Updated on Sep 10, 2020 11:47 PM IST
OFBJP-USA identified Bharatiya Janata Party as its “foreign principal” in a registration form filed on August 27 with the US justice department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), 1938
US President Donald Trump and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive for their joint news conference at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, February 25(REUTERS/FILE)
US President Donald Trump and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive for their joint news conference at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, February 25(REUTERS/FILE)
Hindustan Times, Washington, DC | ByYashwant Raj

The US affiliate of the Bharatiya Janata Party - Overseas Friends of BJP-USA (OFBJP-USA) - recently registered itself with the American government under a law that requires individuals and entities that engage in political activities on behalf of a foreign principal to file a public disclosure of their ties and activities.

The OFBJP-USA identified BJP as its “foreign principal” in a registration form filed on August 27 with the US department of justice (DOJ) under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), 1938. It listed Vijay Chauthaiwale, in-charge of the BJP’s department of foreign affairs, as the party official it works with.

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 defence for India.”

Adapa V Prasad, one of the three signatories of the registration form, denied that 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.”

A response was awaited from the US justice department to a request from Hindustan Times to confirm or deny that an investigation was underway.

Prasad said the members of the organisation learned about FARA regulation “very recently and upon review of the regulation; we thought it best to register voluntarily”.

He added, “We haven’t suspended any of our activities. We are fully functional.”

The department of justice says, “FARA is an important tool to identify foreign influence in the United States and address threats to national security. The central purpose of FARA is to promote transparency with respect to foreign influence within the United States by ensuring that the US government and the public know the source of certain information from foreign agents intended to influence American public opinion, policy and laws, thereby facilitating informed evaluation of that information.”

“Willful violation” of the law is punishable with up to five years in jail and or a maximum fine of $250,000, or both. The punishment for certain lesser violations is a jail term of no more than six months or a fine of $5,000, or both.

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