After declaring a new party president, the Congress today called Shashi Tharoor two-faced in a sharp pushback against his allegations of "extremely serious irregularities" in the internal polls.
"I am sorry to say that you had one face before me which communicated that you're satisfied with all our answers and different face in the media which made all these allegations against us," Madhusudan Mistry, who was election in-charge, said after Shashi Tharoor's team alleged "damning evidence" of violations.
Mallikarjun Kharge defeated Shashi Tharoor by a landslide in the polls held on Monday to become the first non-Gandhi Congress president in 24 years.
As the votes were counted yesterday, Mr Tharoor's election agent Salman Soz wrote to Mr Mistry flagging "disturbing facts" in the election process in Uttar Pradesh and demanding that votes in the state be cancelled. Mr Soz later said after assurances of a "fair inquiry", the team had agreed that the vote-count must go on.
Though Mr Tharoor regretted that a "strictly internal letter" was leaked and said, "let's move on", the Congress was blunt and unforgiving in its response.
"We accommodated your request... and despite that you went to the media alleging that the Central Election Authority was conspiring against you," Mr Mistry wrote in his point-by-point rebuttal.
"You tried creating a mountain out of a mole(hill) by creating an impression that the entire exercise was unfair to your candidate," he said.
Mr Mistry called Team Tharoor's charge of voting malpractice "imaginary and baseless".
The acrimonious counter shows Mr Tharoor may not get an easy out after publicly fretting about an "uneven playing field" and a "difference in treatment".
Few doubted Mr Kharge's victory since he was widely seen to be the "Gandhis approved" candidate even though the Congress insisted that the election was free and fair.
Mr Tharoor is among the few "G-23" leaders still in the party two years after writing to Sonia Gandhi demanding long overdue reforms in the party and a clear and visible leadership.
Since then, several senior leaders have quit the party, including Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal.
After its serial election defeats, the Congress held its first presidential polls in over 20 years - without a Gandhi in the mix - to prove that it is ready for internal reforms.