The Congress on Saturday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to sack his cabinet colleague Smriti Irani, saying illegalities had been exposed in an upscale restaurant-cum-bar reportedly run by her daughter in Goa.
The Congress is not making any wild allegation like Irani does, party spokesperson Pawan Khera told a news conference, adding that the charges were based on RTI answers and a showcause issued by the commissioner of excise, Narayan M. Gad, to the restaurant.
Silly Souls Café & Bar, “the restaurant run by Irani’s daughter, fraudulently procured a licence for the bar. She used forged papers to get the licence,” Khera said.
Irani fiercely contested the charge, saying her 18-year-old daughter Zoish Irani studies in college and does not run a bar.
Threatening to drag the Congress to court, Irani said: “My daughter’s fault is that her mother holds a press conference on the loot of Rs 5,000 crore by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Her fault is that her mother fought against Rahul Gandhi in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The Congress ‘assassinated’ and ‘publicly mutilated’ my daughter’s character. Let the Congress show proof of any wrongdoing.”
Kirat Nagra, lawyer for Irani’s daughter, said his client neither owned nor operated the restaurant called Silly Souls and had not received any showcause notice from any authority whatsoever.
But a local lawyer, Aires Rodrigues, who had lodged a complaint with the excise commissioner and filed the RTI application, asserted that everybody in Goa knew that Silly Souls was run by the Irani family.
Congress spokesperson Khera promptly posted a report on Twitter that suggested Irani had been proud as praise poured in for her daughter’s Goa restaurant.
Khera tweeted: “Which Smriti Irani is lying? The one who on April 14, 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 & Café?”
This was retweeted by Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh, who said the issue would be raised in Parliament.
The report that the Congress posted from moneycontrol, a financial portal, says Irani took to Instagram to share food writer Kunal Vijaykar’s positive review for Silly Souls, the Goa eatery owned by her daughter Zoish Irani.
Vijaykar wrote: “My craving for Asian food has got me to Silly Souls Goa. And to my surprise, apart from the yummy and delicious Asian spread, the owner Zoish Irani has a superb menu of Italian food as well.”
He added that he had ordered Smokey Pork Ribs, Pad Kra Pao, Momo Jhol Chicken and Silly Chilly Chicken at the restaurant.
The report said: “Sharing his review on Instagram, Irani wrote, ‘So proud’. She also tagged her daughter and the restaurant’s Instagram page.”
What’s worse for the minister, Youth Congress chief B.V. Srinivas posted a video in which Vajaykar is seen interviewing Irani’s daughter about the restaurant.
Vijaykar says in the video: “Oh! What a wonderful place you have got over here. Ok guys, let me introduce to you a very, very young entrepreneur — this is Zoish Irani. This is your restaurant, yeah?”
Zoish replies: “Yeah.”
Vijaykar goes on: “What was the thinking behind opening this sort of international restaurant in Goa? There is a lot of international food happening around, is it?”
She responds: “Yeah. Goa is like the tourist hub of India and you will find a lot of Goan dishes, local food but at least I would like to think that international food is lagging here.…”
Srinivas posted: “Three things cannot be long hidden: The Sun, the moon and the truth.”
A Twitter user explained how wonderful food is being served at Silly Souls by Zoish Irani and Chef Haridas V. Malhotra.
Nagra, the lawyer for Irani’s daughter, referred to various “erroneous, frivolous, malicious and defamatory social media posts being made by various vested quarters trying to settle political scores with our client’s mother”.
The Goa Congress too held a media conference to allege a cover-up under pressure from the Centre.
Earlier, Khera had said in the presence of Ramesh and Mahila Congress chief Netta D’Souza: “On June 22, 2022, the application for renewal of the licence was submitted in the name of Anthony Dgama who had died in May 2021. Anthony was a resident of Vile Parle in Mumbai, as per the address in his Aadhaar card. The RTI applicant has got his death certificate as well.
“According to Goa’s excise policy, only running restaurants can get a bar licence. One restaurant can get only one licence. But licences were issued to the Irani family restaurant for sale of foreign as well as local liquor. These were issued without the mandatory restaurant licence.”
Khera added: “Reports suggest the excise commissioner who issued the showcause is being harassed after the expose. Bouncers from the controversial Third Force Security have been deployed around the restaurant.
“Who is indulging in cover-up? On whose instructions? How was the illegality allowed? Irani had once sought Modi’s resignation when he was the Gujarat chief minister. Now Modi should sack her for this illegality.”