File photo of Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam

Citing RTI replies, Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam said the amount spent on tea by the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s office has risen from ₹57 lakh in 2015-16 to nearly ₹3.4 crore in 2017-18

The Congress’s Mumbai unit on Wednesday alleged a massive “Tea Scam” in the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), where they allege daily an average of 18,500 cups of the hot beverage are served.

Furnishing RTI documents, Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam said there has been a dramatic and steady increase in the amount of expenses incurred on tea consumption in the CMO in the past three years.

Citing RTI replies, he said the amount spent on tea has risen from ₹57,99,150 (nearly ₹58 lakh) in 2015-16 to ₹3,34,64.904 (nearly ₹3.4 crore) in 2017-18.

“This is a staggering increase of 577%. It means that on an average, daily a whopping 18,591 cups of tea are served in CMO… How is it possible?” he asked.

Seeking to know “what kind of tea is (Chief Minister Devendra) Fadnavis drinking, since we have heard of only green tea, yellow tea and so on”, Nirupam sarcastically observed that “the CM and CMO seem to be indulging in some kind of highly expensive ‘golden’ tea’ to mount up such a huge bill”.

In contrast, he said it’s an irony that farmers are dying daily in Maharashtra, but the CMO seems to be incurring an unprecedented expense on “serving tea worth crores of rupees”.

Alleging corruption in the tea bills of the CMO, he said: “On one hand, the Prime Minister takes great pride in saying that he was a ‘Chaiwala’. On the other hand, Fadnavis has clearly taken this a bit too far with the massive and unnecessary expense incurred on serving tea in his office. Both the PM and the Maharashtra CM are taking the country for a ride in the name of chai.”

To a question whether its practical or feasible to serve tea to more than 18,000 people in the CMO every day, Nirupam quipped that “those Mantralaya rats must be drinking it all up…!”

He was referring to an alleged scam highlighted by Bharatiya Janata Party ex-minister Eknath Khadse, who claimed that around 3,19,400 rats were eliminated in just one week in Mantralaya.

Later, the state government said he was referring to 319,400 doses of rat poison which were deployed in Mantralaya to kill the rodents.

Nirupam said the huge expenses incurred or the inflated bills for serving tea at the CMO needs to be probed as it is done at the cost of honest tax payers’ money.

“This is happening right under the CM’nose and in the CMO. It must be investigated who is doing it and action must be taken,” he demanded.