Former Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela on Monday said the attack on party Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s convoy on Friday was a result of public anger over its MLAs leaving Gujarat while it reeled under floods, PTI reported.

“I condemn the attack on Rahul Gandhi, but the party should understand that the anger is directed at the MLAs who were absent,” he told reporters in Gandhinagar. “The Congress abandoned its voters during the heavy rains and floods. The people had reposed their faith in the MLAs, so the party should also repose faith in its members.”

The Congress had flown out 44 of its legislators from Ahmedabad to Bengaluru late on July 28 over suspicion that the Bharatiya Janata Party was trying to poach them ahead of the Rajya Sabha election. Gandhi’s car was pelted with stones in Gujarat’s Dhanera town on August 4 where he was meeting flood victims. The rear glass of his vehicle was damaged in the attack.

Vaghela believes that the Congress’ decision to fly out the MLAs to Bengaluru at the time of the floods will cost the party in the Assembly elections in 2018. “Even if they contest in the next elections, will the people forget that they had left the state when their services were required the most?” he said. “Will they be able to win?”

On the Rajya Sabha elections

Despite quitting the Congress, Vaghela had earlier said his vote was reserved for Congress nominee Ahmed Patel in the Rajya Sabha election. However, he changed his stance on Monday and said he will not reveal his choice.

“Party members should not be bound by anything,” the veteran politician said, adding that Patel was his old friend and that their relationship was not limited to politics. “Voting should be free of any whip.”

The Congress has fielded senior leader Patel to contest the Rajya Sabha seat from Gujarat for the fifth time. He is up against BJP National President Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani and former Congress chief whip in the Gujarat Assembly Balwantsinh Rajput.

The Rajya Sabha election will be held on Tuesday.