Silly Souls Cafe and Bar, allegedly operated by Union Minister Smriti Irani's daughter Zoish Irani in Goa's Assagao, is at the centre of a new political row that has erupted between the Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Congress has alleged that Irani's daughter was running an "illegal bar" while the Union Minister stated that the allegation "is malicious, with the intent not only to assassinate her character but also to politically malign me".
Here's all you need to know about the controversy:
What did the Congress allege?
The Congress on Saturday alleged that Smriti Irani's daughter was running an "illegal bar" in Goa.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera told reporters that there are serious charges of corruption against Irani's family and her daughter is allegedly running a restaurant in Goa, in which a bar is also functioning on a "fake licence".
"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," he said.
Noting that it is a "very serious issue", the Congress also shared a copy of the show cause notice given to the bar, and said the excise official who gave the notice is reportedly being transferred after pressure from authorities.
"The licence by Smriti Irani's daughter is in the name of a person who died in May 2021, and the licence was taken in June 2022 in Goa. But the person in whose name the licence is, had died 13 months ago. This is illegal," Khera said.
Khera also shared an article titled ‘Smriti Irani is a proud mom as praise pours in for her daughter’s Goa restaurant’ and wrote, “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?”
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said they urge the prime minister to dismiss Irani from the cabinet after documents of alleged illegalities have come to the fore.
He said they will also raise this issue in Parliament.
"This kind of illegality is not possible without the influence from a senior minister in the Union cabinet. This person (Irani) had demanded on December 12, 2004, the resignation of then Gujarat CM. Today we demand from the prime minister that he should take the resignation of Smriti Irani," Ramesh said.
Congress' National Media Coordinator Prashant Pratap also shared a video of food critic Kunal Vijayakar’s show Khane Mein Kya Hai, in which he went to the same restaurant to try out the menu.
Vijayakar had also posted photos of the food from the restaurant while calling Zoish Irani "the owner" of the restaurant. This was even shared by the Union Minister on her Instagram story, stated Pratap.
Smriti Irani says Congress' allegations against her daughter malicious
Hitting back at the Congress, Irani stated that the allegation that her daughter "runs an illegal bar is malicious, with the intent not only to assassinate her character but also to politically malign me".
Addressing a press conference, she said the allegations had been made "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," she said.
The minister accused Congress of "publicly mutilating" her daughter's character with its allegations.
Irani said, "Her (daughter's) character was publicly mutilated by the Congress party and they claim that the mutilation stemmed from a show-cause notice. I want to ask that Congressperson, where is my daughter's name in the papers that he flashed?".
"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 added.
Irani sends legal notice to Congress leaders
Irani on Sunday sent a legal notice to Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh and Pawan Khera, asking them to apologise for their "baseless and false" allegations against her daughter.
If they do not tender an unconditional and unequivocal apology and withdraw their allegations, Irani will initiate civil and criminal proceedings against them, the legal notice said.
The notice has also been sent to Mahila Congress leader Netta D'Souza and the Congress party.
"The false allegations were intended to hurt the reputation of our client as a minister and a person in public life, and also to outrage her modesty and that of her daughter," the notice said.
The Congress leaders stooped to a new low, morally and ethically, by attacking Irani's young daughter who is in her first year at university and at the threshold of a new chapter of her life pursuing her professional aspirations, the notice sent by Irani said.
"These aspirations of our client's (Irani) daughter are sought to be cruelly marred, jeopardised and prejudiced by the addressees (Congress leaders) through their inhumane, insensitive and false narratives as collateral damage," it said.
"The insistence of addressees to invoke value systems of our client with a reference to her 'sanskar' is an effort to make our client and her young daughter social outcasts by proclaiming that by the act of 'running' a bar our client and her young daughter are women of disrepute," it said.
(With ANI and PTI inputs)