The doors of the Congress party are not closed for former Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, the party’s state in charge and National General Secretary Avinash Pande said on Wednesday. Pilot was removed as the deputy chief minister and Rajasthan party chief on Tuesday, after he failed to show up at a Legislature Party meeting convened by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

“The party’s doors have not been closed for Pilot,” Pande tweeted. “May God give... good sense and he realises his mistake. I pray that he comes out of the trap of BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party].”

Later on Wednesday, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also urged Pilot to end talks with the BJP. “We’ve seen Sachin Pilot’s statement that he won’t join BJP,” Surjewala was quoted as saying by ANI. “I’d like to tell him that if you don’t want that, then immediately come out of the security cover of BJP’s Haryana government, stop all conversations with them and come back to your home in Jaipur.”

Gehlot, on the other hand, criticised Pilot without taking his name. “Speaking good English, giving good bytes and being handsome isn’t everything,” he said, according to ANI. “What is inside your heart for the country, your ideology, policies, and commitment, everything is considered.”

The Rajasthan chief minister also accused Pilot of being involved in horse-trading. “We have the proof that horse-trading was being committed,” he said, according to NDTV. “Money was offered. And who gave the clarification that nothing was happening? Those who were themselves part of the conspiracy were giving clarifications. Our deputy chief minister and PCC [state Congress committee] president himself was doing the deal and was giving statements that no horse-trading was taking place.”

“We had to keep people at a hotel for 10 days, if we had not done that, the same thing that is happening in Manesar now would have happened back then,” Gehlot added.

Gehlot also spoke about the old guard versus new conflict. “I have been in politics for 40 years, we love the new generation, the future will be theirs,” he was quoted as saying by ANI. “This new generation, they have become central ministers, state presidents. If they had gone through what we did in our time, they would have understood.”

Pilot, however, denied once again on Wednesday that he will join the BJP. The former deputy chief minister said that a few leaders in the state were behind the rumours on him joining the BJP. “The BJP link is an attempt to malign me in the eyes of the Gandhis,” Pilot said. “I am still a member of the Congress party.” He claimed that he had not decided a future course for himself yet, but “would like to serve the people of Rajasthan”.

The power struggle between Gehlot and Pilot had been going on for quite some time, but the latest crisis was triggered after Pilot was summoned by the Rajasthan Anti-Terror Squad and the Special Operations Group last week. The SOG had sought time from Pilot to record his statement in a case of conspiracy and sedition registered after attempts were allegedly made by the BJP to bribe Congress MLAs to switch sides during last month’s Rajya Sabha elections. However, Gehlot had pointed out that the notice was misinterpreted, adding that a similar one was sent to him as well.

The Congress has accused the BJP of attempting to destabilise the Rajasthan government by bribing its MLAs, and said such efforts would not be fruitful as the Gehlot administration will complete its term.

The Rajasthan Assembly

The former deputy chief minister claims he has the support of 30 MLAs, a number the Congress has disputed – but if true, would lead to the fall of the Rajasthan government. Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi on Wednesday issued notices to 19 rebel Congress MLAs, including Pilot, after the party moved to initiate disqualification proceedings against them. They have been giving time till Friday to respond.

Before the political turmoil erupted, the Congress had the backing of 125 MLAs in the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly, including 107 of its own lawmakers. As many as 13 Independents and five MLAs from other parties – one from the Rashtriya Lok Dal, two MLAs from the Bharatiya Tribal Party and two more from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – support it. However, the Bharatiya Tribal Party has officially withdrawn support to the state government.