Congress central election authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry on Thursday accused Shashi Tharoor's team of having two faces -- one for the party's poll body and another for the media -- as he rejected allegations of irregularities during the just-concluded All India Congress Committee presidential poll, according to sources.
In his response to Team Tharoor's letter in which "extremely serious irregularities" were flagged in the conduct of the election in Uttar Pradesh, Mistry said the poll body satisfied the candidate on every complaint but despite that he raised all those points in the media before bringing them to "our notice".
"I am sorry to say that you had one face before me which communicated that you're satisfied with all our answers and action and different face in the media which made all these allegations against us," Mistry said in his letter to Tharoor's chief election agent Salman Soz, according to sources.
The campaign team of Tharoor, who lost the party's presidential polls to Mallikarjun Kharge, had written to Mistry a day before the counting of votes, flagging "extremely serious irregularities" in the conduct of the election in Uttar Pradesh.
Besides demanding that all votes from Uttar Pradesh be deemed invalid, Tharoor's campaign team had also separately raised "serious issues" in the conduct of the election in Punjab and Telangana.
In his letter to Mistry, Soz had said the facts are "damning" and the election process in Uttar Pradesh is "devoid of credibility and integrity".
In his response to Team Tharoor, Mistry said, "You say in your letter that 'we kept quiet in the party's interest and we saw unjust and unfair treatment that prevented us from operating on a level playing field'. We satisfied you on every complaint you made to us and you agreed to all of them and expressed that you're satisfied, despite that you raised all those points in the media before bringing them to our notice."
"You tried creating a mountain out of a mole by creating an impression that the entire exercise was unfair to your candidate," he said.
To put the record the straight, Mistry said he must state that the party's poll body showed Tharoor's team the list of all the voters two days before the candidates filed their nomination.
"Subsequently, we gave you the list of all the voters along with their telephone numbers. You alleged in the media that you did not receive phone numbers for 3,000 voters despite the fact that you and Mr. Kharge both received approximately 9,400 phone numbers which were available with us," Mistry said.
"You alleged that we were putting '1' for voting because Mr. Kharge had '1' against his name as serial number which may indicate as if someone is suggesting to vote for serial number-1. We accommodated your request and changed it to tick-mark...and despite that you went to the media alleging that Central Election Authority was conspiring against you," he said.
Mistry said that after receiving the complaint of Team Tharoor, he asked pradesh returning officer (PRO) Rameshwar Dudi and All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary Pranav Jha to give him a report detailing the events of the day during the voting process in Uttar Pradesh.
"Before embarking on the report of Mr. Dudi (PRO) and Mr Jha (AICC secretary), I must inform you that before beginning the counting, the said six ballot boxes were shown to your counting agent -- Mr Karti Chidambaram. Each ballot box contained approximately 210 votes. Of these six boxes, Mr Karti didn't find any fault in 4 of the boxes," Mistry said.
"Of the remaining two, the seal did not have the number embossed on it. These boxes were opened in front of your election agent. Hence, the case you make pertains to only 400 votes out of 9,385 total polled votes," he said.
In his letter, Mistry also gave a point-by-point rebuttal of the "irregularities" in Uttar Pradesh flagged by Tharoor's team including the use of unofficial seals for ballot boxes, presence of unofficial persons in polling booths, voting malpractice, no polling summary sheet, presence of AICC secretaries in-charge of Uttar Pradesh.
To Team Tharoor's charge of voting malpractice, Mistry said barring an isolated complaint there was no other complaint or witness to any other such instance where a person had been stopped from exercising their voting rights as there were hundreds of voters present in around polling booth at any given time.
"Therefore, this charge is imaginary and baseless," he said.
On the presence of AICC secretaries, Mistry cited the observer report which stated that AICC secretaries may have been present around the Pradesh Congress Committee premises but they had been disallowed by returning officers from entering the polling booths.
After Team Tharoor's letter dated October 18 came in public domain, Soz had said on Twitter, "In light of complaints from our UP team yesterday, we wrote to @INCIndia's CEA immediately, a standard practice. Subsequent discussions with the CEA have assured us of a fair inquiry."
Tagging Soz's tweet, Tharoor had said, "It was unfortunate that a strictly internal letter to the CEA was leaked to the media. I hope this clarification by Salman Soz ends an unnecessary controversy. This election was meant to strengthen @INCIndia, not to divide it. Let's move on."
Asked about the issue at the presser on Wednesday, Tharoor had said that the leak of that letter was unfortunate, "it is certainly not something we would have done, getting some very educated guesses where it came from".