The Congress on Saturday demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should sack Union Minister Smriti Irani, alleging that her daughter was running an "illegal bar" in Goa, a charge vehemently rejected by the senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader.
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.
Rejecting Congress' allegations as malicious, Irani said the college student was targeted because of her mother's vocal stand on the Sonia and Rahul Gandhi's "Rs 5,000-crore loot" in the National Herald case.
The Congress "assassinated" and "publicly mutilated" my daughter's character, Irani said in a hard-hitting press conference, and dared the Opposition party to show the proof of any wrongdoing.
In a statement, lawyer of Irani's daughter, Kirat Nagra, said his client is neither an owner nor operating the restaurant and also has not received any show cause notice from any authority.
Nagra said 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 renowned politician Smriti Irani each of which are predicated on blatant falsities".
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.
Khera said according to Goa rules, a restaurant can get only one bar licence but this restaurant has got two bar licences.
To a question on Irani attacking Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leader said "There cannot be any comparison between something as noble as running a newspaper and something like running an illegal bar in Goa".
"Is this being done without her knowledge and was the licence given without her influence," he asked.
He said Smriti Irani was raising all kinds of questions against Rahul Gandhi, "but we want to ask her -- what problem do those running bars have with those running newspapers."
"We are running only a newspaper and you are running illegal bars," he alleged.
Khera also alleged that bouncers of private security have been deployed around the restaurant in Goa to keep the media out of bounds.
"We want to know from you under whose influence is this being done. Who is behind this illegal work," he asked.
Later, tagging a media report about a review of Goa restaurant, Khera tweeted, "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?"
Addressing a press conference in Panaji, party's Goa chief Amit Patkar alleged that a restaurant run by Irani's daughter has been under the cloud of suspicion for procuring excise licence "by presenting forged documents".
He said the renewal for the licence has been applied in the name of a dead person.
"The Congress wants Smriti Irani, who speaks about morals, to come clean on the fraud. I am questioning the chief minister as to under whose pressure you have issued these licences,” he said in Panaji.
To support his claim that the restaurant is run by Irani's daughter, Patkar played a YouTube interview of Irani's daughter speaking about 'Silly Souls Café'.
He claimed that a person with Aadhaar card issued on December 30, 2020 had applied for the excise licence for the restaurant on December 31, 2020.
"On January 22, 2021, a police report mentions that this person does not stay in Goa and has been living at Ville Parle East, Mumbai. But the Excise department neglected this police report and gave an excise licence for foreign and IMFL," he said.
Patkar claimed that according to the death certificate from Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, the applicant died on May 17, 2021.
"On June 22, 2022, an unknown person signed on his behalf asking for renewal of the excise licence and on July 29, 2022 the licence was renewed," he claimed.
Patkar said responding to the complaint against the fraud, the Excise Commissioner has issued show cause notice returnable on July 29.
"We have understood that the officer has been pressured not to act. If the government takes action against the official, Congress will take to the streets. Let him inquire as per the rules," he added.