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The general election was barely five months away and a coalition government appeared inevitable in 1996. The buzz was that Laloo could head the next government. He had won a comfortable majority in the assembly election in 1995, defying critics and predictions, had made his first trip abroad as chief minister and I were retarded and said,” Dada, the next election is going to produce a hodge-podge result . Have I been bitten by a dog that I’d agree to head an unstable coalition? No, it will be the election after the next that I have set my eyes on. That’s when I’ll sweep to power and become the PM.” He mischievously smiled and added, “I’ll then take you to delhi.”
It was during this Ranchi visit, I learnt later, when he was first informed of the fodder scam. Amit Khare, an IAS officer posted as deputy commissioner of Chaibasa, had unearthed fraudulent withdrawals by animal husbandry officials from the treasury. The treasury officer, it was found, had opened the treasury at night on several occasions and issued treasury cheques worth crores of rupees. The complicity of senior officials in both Patna and Ranchi, not to speak of Chaibasa, was evident. What should the DC do? Laloo was possibly too euphoric at the time to care; or the celebrations in Delhi were so heady that they clouded his reason. Instead of waiting, he gave the go-ahead to arrest whoever was found guilty.
The arrests had a cascading effect. Reports from other districts started trickling in about similar over-withdrawals by the animal husbandry department. And soon a PIL was filed in the Patna High Court seeking a CBI inquiry into the scam. While the animal husbandry department. And soon a PIL was field in the Patna High Court seeking a CBI inquiry into the scam. While the animal husbandry department lacked glamour and a big budget (the budget for the entire state had never exceeded Rs 48 crore till 1996), somehow its officials always seemed to be rolling in money. It was a lucrative department, people agreed. With even a regional director taking home around Rs-12,000, the wedding in families of officials were lavish affairs, with each expensive gifts for guests and starlets flown in from Calcutta and Bombay for item numbers. The regional director at Ranchi Bihari sinha, and his deputies seemed to be generous souls, distributing astonishing sums of monip ey to whoever needed it. The late Dr Ram Dayal Munda, a former vice-chancellor of Ranchi University and later a member of both the Rajya Sabha and the National Advisory Committee, told me he had once requested Sinha for a loan of Rs10000 before a trip to the US and embarrassed when Sinha sent Rs50000 in cash back with the messenger. BJP MP Shatrghan Sinha confided that the young son of K.M.Prased , Sinha’s deputy, had offered to buy four flats in Mumbai, each of them costing Rs2 crore then , on condition that the filmaster’s real estate firm accepted the money in cash. But there were busy making payments for stuff that was never suppild, how much could they possibly