Congress's Salman Khurshid joined issue with Kapil Sibal and other critics within the party who have been pushing for a change in leadership, calling them "doubting Thomases" who suffer "periodic pangs of anxiety". In a lengthy post on Facebook that started with couplets of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor, he urged the critics to look within themselves for "flaws", one of which, he indicated, could be a tendency to look for "short cuts".
"If the mood of the electorate is resistant to the liberal values we have espoused... we should be prepared for a long struggle rather than look for short cuts to get back into power," he contended, questioning if the critics were "bad workmen quarreling with their tools".
"Being excluded from power is not to be casually embraced in public life but if it is the result of principled politics it should be accepted with honour... If we are explicitly or implicitly willing to compromise with our principles to regain power we might as well pack up our bags," his post read.
Without naming Kapil Sibal, who went public with his criticism after the Bihar election results, Mr Khurshid wrote while "periodic re-appraisal and re-writing of strategy and logistics" are required, they cannot be conducted on media so that adversaries can "check mate it promptly".
"The favourite panacea of doubting Thomases, introspection and collective leadership, might do no collateral damage but is a bit over estimated," he added.
In an interview with The Indian Express, Mr Sibal said he had been forced to go public with his views as " there has been no dialogue and there seems to be no effort for a dialogue by the leadership".
"The time for introspection is over. We know the answers. The Congress must be brave and willing to recognise them," Mr Sibal had told The Indian Express, pointing to a string of reverses in states. Before Bihar, there had been Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, where the party is considered to have ground support.
Declaring that the party must "recognize that we are in decline", he said the need of the hour is to have a conversation "with experienced minds, experienced hands, with people who understand the political realities of India, people who know what and how to articulate in the media, people who know how to get people to listen to them".
His public criticism was met with strong condemnation from Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
"There was no need for Mr Kapil Sibal to mention our internal issue in Media, this has hurt the sentiments of party workers across the country," Mr Gehlot tweeted.