Former Congress leader Ashwani Kumar said on Wednesday said that the election of Mallikarjun Kharge as the president of the party shows that Sonia Gandhi remains the last word in the organisation’s internal politics.

Kharge, the former Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and a Gandhi family loyalist, received 7,897 of the 9,385 votes polled in the election for the post of the Congress chief. His competitor, Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, got 1,072 votes.

Kumar said that former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is likely to have the last word in the party as long as she remains active in the organisation in any capacity.

“This is because party persons retain a sense of personal loyalty to her, which extends to the family,” he said. “That Kharge was her undeclared choice is indisputable notwithstanding vehement denials by the establishment to the contrary.”

The former Union law minister added that Tharoor was “no loser” as he made a political statement by walking the talk.

“He has clearly outshone most of his once-upon-a-time colleagues in the G-23 grouping and has positioned himself as a challenger,” he said. “He need not complain about the absence of a level playing field, which is never the case in a David vs Goliath fight...His tally of over 1,000 votes is a significant pointer.”

While Kumar referred to Tharoor being part of the G-23 grouping, the Thiruvananthapuram MP himself had claimed on October 3 that the group did not really exist, and was merely acreation of the media.

The purported group is believed to comprise Congress leaders who had called for “collective and intrusive leadership” in the party and criticised its functioning on several occasions.

Kumar also said on Wednesday that Kharge would need to be a consensus builder and remove causes for alienation of party members. He added that the new president would need the Gandhi family’s support for this.

The former law minister also said that Sonia Gandhi “once again demonstrated her astute political judgement in using elections to demonstrate the family’s preeminence in the party established over long years of exercise of political patronage”.

Kumar had resigned from the Congress on February 15 after being associated with it for 46 years. In an interview with The Indian Express soon after his resignation, Kumar said that the “continuous decline” of the Congress in terms of vote percentage and public support reflected that the party was out of sync with the way the country thinks.