The ruling Congress was left red-faced on Wednesday when it could not get the nominations filed by two rebel candidates rejected for the Rajya Sabha elections.

The setback came in spite of the party machinery working overtime all through Tuesday and Wednesday to ensure that the nomination papers filed by the two rebels -- K. V. V. Satyanarayana Raju alias Chaitanya Raju and Congress MLA from Sarvepalli Adala Prabhakar Reddy -- were rejected. They even saw to it that the eight MLAs, who had signed their papers withdrew support to these candidates.

But, the Returning Officer, S. Raja Sadaram, quoting Sections 33 and 37 of the Representation of People’s Act declared them valid. Chief Electoral Officer Bhanwarlal was also present when the Returning officer brought the curtains on the high voltage drama . The verdict left the ruling party leaders worrying about cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha elections slated for February 7.

Till noon on Thursday, the Congress camp was fully on the offensive claiming that elections would be unanimous as the papers of rebels would be rejected. Their confidence stemmed from the efforts of PCC chief Botcha Satyanarayana, Congress candidate K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao to persuade the rebels to withdraw. The party went to the extent of summoning the MLAs who had proposed the candidature of the rebels and asking them to stay put in a Minister’s chambers in the Assembly till completion of the scrutiny of the papers. After failing to convince them, the PCC chief along with Minister Kondru Murali Mohan met the Returning officer and submitted a letter containing the signatures of the eight MLAs. They reasoned that nominations of the two rebels should be rejected as they had misled, the Congress MLAs and obtained their signatures fraudulently. Tourism Minister Vatti Vasant Kumar too gave a complaint saying Mr. Raju had concealed details of a criminal case pending against him.

Based on the complaint, Mr. Sadaram asked the two candidates to give their version within an hour. The two returned with their lawyer and presented their version. After hearing their views, the Returning Officer declared that the papers were valid.

A relieve Mr. Prabhakar Reddy said: “This is a victory of democracy. The Congress leaders mentally harassed me for the last two days .” The two rebel candidates later came to an understanding that one among them would contest the polls on the Samaikyandhra plank to defeat the official nominee.