After allegations surfaced about the Overseas Friends of BJP’s (OFBJP) US chapter being investigated by the US’s Justice Department, Vijay Chauthaiwale, who is in-charge of the party’s foreign affairs department, has issued a statement to members of the OFBJP to “participate in US election campaign and support any candidate or a party in their personal capacity” but “not to use BJP or OFBJP’s name during the campaign.”
The controversy comes in the wake of a campaign video, titled ‘Four More Years’, launched by the Republican Party that has visuals from rallies of the US President Donald Trump’s India visit — ‘Namaste Trump’ — and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit — ‘Howdy Modi’. The campaign video has been doing the rounds in an apparent attempt to woo Indian-Americans ahead of the November 3 presidential elections.
On Wednesday, Pieter Friedrich, a US-based researcher specialising in South Asia, who has been tracking OFBJP’s work and has written on the purported links between former US presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard and BJP’s overseas chapter, put out a series of tweets in which he claimed that the OFBJP “is reportedly under investigation by the @TheJusticeDept & has suspended all activities. #ForeignInterference”
In his statement, Chauthaiwale, said, “…as far as the BJP is concerned, we are naturally happy that someone with Indian ancestry is contesting the second topmost post in the USA. At the same time, we believe that any election is solely a domestic process of that country and the BJP has no role whatsoever in the process.”
“India and the US have deep strategic relations which have bipartisan support in the USA and overwhelming public support in India. We are confident that this partnership will grow from strength to strength in future too,” he said.
However, he added that while the OFBJP-USA members were free to participate in the US elections and support any candidate of their choice, they have been at the same time instructed not to use the names of BJP or OFBJP in the campaign.
Earlier in the day, the OFBJP-USA also put out a tweet stating that it “has voluntarily registered with DOJ under FARA. President @krishnareddyNJ has stepped down due to his family reasons and @AdapaVPrasad took over the responsibilities as the working president. OFBJP-USA is fully functional and is not under any investigation.”
FARA or Foreign Agents Registration Act requires that agents representing the interests of foreign powers in a “political or quasi-political capacity” disclose their relationship with the foreign government and information about related activities and finances.
Responding to a question on the video ‘Four more years’, Trump had told reporters at a White House news conference last week, “We have great support from India. We have great support from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I would think that the Indian (American) people would be voting for Trump.”