The Centre has turned down Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati's request asking it to direct the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to close an eight-year-old corruption case against her.
With barely six months to go for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, the government's refusal to bail her out could spell trouble for Mayawati as the CBI is giving final touches to chargesheet against her.
The agency had in August 2003 registered a case against Mayawati for allegedly owning assets disproportionate to her known sources of income.
Raids that followed yielded documents showing purchase of property in Delhi and parts of UP between April 1, 1995 and August 29, 2003.
The FIR says Maya has several bank accounts in Delhi, a plot in Lucknow, agricultural land in UP and several fixed deposits.
A graft taint at a time when public sentiment is growing against corruption in public life could add to her difficulties, as she would be up against anti-incumbency factor as well.
The chief minister recently made a detailed representation to the prime minister's office (PMO), asking for the case "registered on political grounds" to be closed.
Since her petition was pending in the Supreme Court, it would not be advisable for the government to ask the agency to file a closure report, the law ministry told the department of personnel and training (DoPT), which has administrative control over the CBI.
The court is hearing a petition filed by the chief minister in 2008, seeking quashing of the CBI FIR.
The DoPT had sought the ministry's opinion citing Maya's letter to the PMO in which she said since "the income tax appellate tribunal and the Delhi high court" had cleared her of all income-tax related issues, there was no basis for the CBI to proceed against her.
"The CBI has already informed the Supreme Court that it is finalising the chargesheet against Mayawati and any intervention from now on would be legally untenable," said a ministry official on condition of anonymity.
In its affidavit filed on September 14, the CBI said, "Investigation against Mayawati is based on strong documentary evidence which shows that there is a criminal nexus between income of relatives and Mayawati as well as between her and the donors."