Even as a section of leaders within the Congress feels that Sachin Pilot has "gone too far", especially after he took the party to court over the disqualification issue, sources on Thursday said the top party leadership is still keeping the "doors open" for the rebel leader, and has also asked Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot to not make critical comments against his former deputy.
Sources also claimed that Pilot has spoken to a senior party leader from the southern India on Thursday laying conditions for his return.
While there was no confirmation from the Pilot camp on this conversation, sources said Pilot was told unequivocally that the Congress party's "doors are still open" for him, but he would have to return unconditionally. He was also reportedly told that he would first have to come out of the "BJP camp and not hobnob" with them.
According to sources, Pilot was also told that the Congress party is ready to forget this chapter, and that he will be accorded equal respect on his return.
Sources said party's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, who is part of a team sent by the Congress leadership to Jaipur to handle the crisis, held a closed-door meeting with Gehlot and urged him not to make any public statement against his former deputy, as the party leaders still want Pilot to return.
This was done at the instance of former Congress party president Rahul Gandhi, who is keen to retain Pilot, whom he considers as part of his young brigade, said a source, who did not wish to be named.
Gehlot's public outburst against Pilot came on Wednesday, when he accused him of indulging in horse trading of MLAs and conspiring to topple his government, as part of BJP's plan.
Sources added that Gehlot has stated that he is not against Pilot, but he would have to "leave BJP's hospitality" first and return unconditionally.
After Pilot on Wednesday declared that he is not joining the BJP, the party asked the rebel leader to stop fraternizing with the BJP and give up the hospitality of a BJP-ruled state.
"We want to tell Pilot that if you don't want to go to the BJP then don't accept Haryana's hospitality. If you don't want to go to the BJP, stop talking to any BJP leader or member," Surjewala said, while asking the rebel leader to return to the party fold and resolve any differences within.
The Congress on Tuesday removed Pilot as Rajasthan deputy chief minister and state party chief after he mounted a rebellion against Gehlot, and also the Rajasthan speaker sent disqualification notice to him and 18 other MLAs after they defied a party whip to attend two Congress Legislature Party meetings.
Pilot and the dissident leaders on Thursday moved the Rajasthan high court, challenging the notices to disqualify them from the state assembly
After Pilot moved the court, a senior leader said it now seems "he has gone a bit too far".
The choice of lawyers --Mukul Rohatgi and Harish Salve--selected by Pilot to plead on his behalf in the Rajasthan High Court have also raised eyebrows within the Congress, with some party leaders saying the selection suggested the BJP involvement.
Meanwhile, the BJP in Rajasthan is in a "wait and watch" mode as a meeting convened by the party on Wednesday was postponed.