The outcome of the coming elections is likely to strongly influence the progress of the CBI investigation. The CBI has been given four months by the high court to complete its investigations, by which time elections would be complete and Laloo's MPs could then come in handy in the formation of a government. CBI officials admit that despite the court order, there is resistance from the state government. Agency officials who met the state home secretary last Wednesday, were told that relevant documents could be made available to them only after the Supreme Court's verdict on the high court's order. "It is anybody's guess how long that will take. In addition, the CBI will have to rely heavily on the assistance of district administrations, who naturally owe allegiance to the chief minister," admits a CBI source.
Officials privately admit that the state government may not leave any stone unturned to hinder investigations. On February 19, the Home Department had issued a notification forbidding the agency to suo moto take up any case of "cheating, forgery and corruption which involves state government employees". CBI officials, however, say that they are not obliged to seek the permission of the state government at every step.
Agency officials also say that the mea-gre strength of their investigators in the state may not be enough to probe the sheer magnitude of the scam, which has to be investigated, prima facie, in at least 10 districts. To begin with, the CBI will take over a total of 32 cases that have been registered so far by the state police. CBI sources confide, however, that these cases mainly pertain to the period till 1990, while the hefty withdrawals began only after that period.
Is the time given by the court enough for the agency to complete its investigations? Officials admit that since they do not even know when they will formally begin work, they may have to go in for an extension before the court. Meanwhile, all investigations in the animal husbandry scam have come to a halt with neither the state police nor the CBI doing any work. In the circumstances, some fear that vital evidence may be tampered with.
Sleuths from the Calcutta office have already been sent in to help their colleagues in Bihar. And a team from Delhi is also around. But just what are they going to look at?