Union Minister Smriti Irani with Silly Souls Cafe in the background. Representational image.
(Photo: Samarth Grover/The Quint)
A new political row has erupted between the Congress party and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Union Minister Smriti Irani, with the spotlight on the workings of a posh restaurant – the Silly Souls Cafe and Bar, allegedly operated by Irani's daughter Zoish Irani in Goa's Assagao.
The establishment landed in controversy after it was found that its owners had renewed the restaurant's liquor licence using the name of a deceased person.
Meanwhile, Irani has defended her daughter saying that “my 18-year-old daughter is studying…my 18-year-old daughter does not run an illegal bar.”
However, piercing her defence, several Congress workers have shared videos of food critic Kunal Vijayakar’s show Khane Mein Kya Hai, in which he went to the same restaurant to try out the menu.
So, what’s the controversy? What has the Congress party said? How has Irani defended her daughter? Here’s the low-down.
"We demand from the prime minister that Smriti Irani should be immediately sacked as a minister from the Union cabinet. You owe it to this country, to the youth of this country [sic]," Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said while speaking to journalists at a press meet chaired by him and party spokesperson Jairam Ramesh.
Khera also shared an article titled ‘Smriti Irani is a proud mom as praise pours in for her daughter’s Goa restaurant’ and said in a tweet, “Which Smriti Zubin Irani is lying? 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?”
Vijayakar had posted photos of the food from the restaurant, while calling Zoish Irani the owner of the restaurant.
Kunal Vijayakar's post appreciating the food at Silly Souls Cafe and Bar.
Further, the Union minister had shared the post on her Instagram story. The same post has been used by Congress leaders to attack Irani.
The All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) has also questioned the BJP and slammed them for "hiding the truth in the case of the illegal license of a restaurant owned by Union Minister Smriti Irani. (sic)."
Silly Souls Cafe and Bar, allegedly operated by Irani's daughter Zoish Irani, landed in controversy after it was found that its owners renewed the restaurant's liquor licence using the name of a deceased person.
Narayan M Gad, the excise commissioner of Goa, had on 21 July issued a show-cause notice to the restaurant after receiving a complaint from lawyer Aires Rodrigues, who stated that the owners had submitted "fraudulent and fabricated documents" to get the licence.
The matter is set to be heard in court on 29 July.
According to the show-cause notice, the restaurant's liquor licence was renewed last month, although the licence holder had passed away on 17 May 2021.
As per the Aadhaar card of Dgama, which was issued in December 2020, he was a resident of Mumbai's Vile Parle. Rodrigues has also obtained Dgama's death certificate from Mumbai's municipal corporation to substantiate his statements.
The state excise department said that the licence renewal application "was signed by someone on behalf of the licence holder with an undertaking that ‘please renew this licence for the year 2022-23 and will transfer the said licence within six months."
Rodrigues, who got to know about this alleged illegal act following a tip-off, found the fraudulent documents used by the restaurant for licence renewal through an RTI application. He has now sought a thorough enquiry to be conducted into the "mega fraud orchestrated by the Union minister's family along with excise officials and local Assagao panchayat."
Smriti Irani, who is the Union Cabinet minister for the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Ministry of Minority Affairs, held a press conference on Saturday and said, "An 18-year-old child, a college student... her character was assassinated by Congressmen at party headquarters. Her fault is that her mother fought Lok Sabha elections against Rahul Gandhi from Amethi in 2014 and 2019."
She further claimed that her daughter's character was "publicly mutilated by the Congress party and they claim that the mutilation stemmed from a show-cause notice."
She asked the Congress party, "Where is my daughter's name in the papers that he flashed?"
Irani further said:
The Union minister went on to claim that the supposed maligning is being "done at the direction of the Congress leadership, namely the Gandhi family. Because I had the audacity to hold a press conference and question Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on the Rs 5,000 crore loot of the Indian treasury."