The Congress on Saturday demanded the resignation of Union minister Smriti Irani after reports claimed that a restaurant in Goa allegedly run by her daughter had obtained an illegal liquor licence.
Goa Excise Commissioner Narayan M Gad issued a show cause notice on Thursday to the restaurant, Silly Souls Cafe and Bar, that is allegedly run by the minister’s daughter Zoish Irani, The Herald reported. The official issued the notice on the basis of a complaint by lawyer Aires Rodrigues.
The licence was allegedly registered in the name of a Mumbai resident identified as Anthony Dgama. However, Gad’s notice said that the liquor licence was renewed in June, even though Dgama died on May 17, 2021.
Zoish Irani’s lawyer Kirat Nagra, however, claimed that his client neither owns nor operates the restaurant, PTI reported. The lawyer added that Irani had not received any show cause notice as was being alleged.
At a press conference on Saturday, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remove Smriti Irani from the Union Cabinet. He noted that on December 12, 2004, Irani had asked for the resignation of Modi, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, in connection with the 2002 riots.
“Today, we ask the prime minister to immediately remove Smriti Zubin Irani from the Cabinet,” Khera said. “You owe it to this country, you owe it to the youth of this country.”
Khera alleged that preparations have begun for the transfer of the excise commissioner who had issued the notice to the restaurant. He also claimed that bouncers, or private security personnel, have been deployed in front of the restaurant in order to shut off access to the media.
“Is this happening without the involvement of Smriti Irani ji?” the Congress spokesperson asked. “Was the licence acquired without her influence?”
Khera asked whether ordinary citizens could even think of committing such illegalities. “The Bharatiya Janata Party wants the children of its supporters to keep fighting in the name of Namaz and Hanuman Chalisa,” he said. “Meanwhile, children of BJP leaders either go abroad to study – which is a good thing – or indulge in such illegal activities with the leaders’ patronage and protection.”
Daughter is being targeted: Smriti Irani
Hours after this, Smriti Irani held a press conference saying that her 18-year-old daughter is a first-year college student and does not run any bar.
“My daughter’s fault is that her mother holds a press conference on the loot of Rs 5,000 crore by [Congress leaders] Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi,” the MP said, referring to a money laundering case linked to the National Herald newspaper. “Her fault is that her mother fought against Rahul Gandhi in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party leader said the Congress has “assassinated” and “publicly mutilated” her daughter’s character, PTI reported.
She dared the Congress to show proof of any wrongdoing and said, “I will seek answers in the court of law and the court of people.”
However, Khera subsequently pointed to a MoneyControl article about a review of the restaurant by food critic Kunal Vijayakar that had termed Zoish Irani as its owner. Smriti Irani had shared the review on her Instagram stories and written: “So proud”.
“Which Smriti Zubin Irani is lying?” Khera asked. “The one who on 14th April 2022 said she was proud of her daughter’s restaurant or the one who today says her daughter has nothing to do with the Silly Souls Bar & Cafe?”
Baseless allegations, claims lawyer
The excise regulations in Goa state that a bar licence can be given only to an existing restaurant. But Rodrigues alleged that in the case of Silly Souls Cafe and Bar, the excise department issued one licence for foreign liquor and another one for Indian-made foreign liquor and country liquor in February 2021, even before the establishment had a restaurant licence, The Herald reported.
Zoish Irani’s lawyer Kirat Nagra, however, claimed that the Union minister’s political opponents were levelling baseless allegations against her, according to PTI. He claimed that his client had only done an internship with the chef of Silly Souls Cafe.