Who is Sunil Kanugolu, the poll strategist behind Congress' Karnataka win

Sunil Kanugolu was brought on board to help with Congress' electoral strategy for various elections across India after Prashant Kishor rebuffed the Congress' offer to join the party

BS Web Team New Delhi
Sunil Kanugolu

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In the assembly elections held in Karnataka on May 10, the Congress achieved a stunning victory, winning a total of 135 assembly seats out of 224. The grand old party had roped in poll strategist Sunil Kanugolu, who has been working with the Congress party since last year.
With an eye toward the future, Kanugolu is now prepared to supervise the party's election management preparations for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Who is Sunil Kanugolu?
Described a "man of ideas, with a handle on the big picture", Kanugolu maintains a low profile and does not interact much with media houses or leaders, reports said.

"He has a personality that is calm but firm. He is low-profile, attention-hating, and because he always comes armed with data from field surveys, he cannot be bulldozed, and politicians find a lot of value in him in their everyday political work," a Congress insider told news channel NDTV.
Sunil Kanugolu was born in Karnataka's Ballari district, where he completed his middle school education. Later, he lived in Chennai before relocating to Bengaluru, as reported by The Quint.

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According to local media, although being a Telugu speaker, Kanugolu has roots in Karnataka and now resides in Bengaluru.
He has formerly worked for the BJP, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). He was also behind aspects of Tamil pride and the Dravidian model during the 2017 Jallikattu protests, assisting the DMK in countering the aggressive BJP.

He was previously a member of Prashant Kishor's team, which played an important role in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election campaign in 2014. The poll strategist was also influential in the BJP's election campaigns in the past in various states, including Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, and Karnataka, which the BJP won.
Sunil Kanugolu's history with Congress

Last year, Sunil Kanugolu was brought on board to help with the party's electoral strategy for various elections across India after the party's talks with Prashant Kishor fell through.
Kanugolu was made a member of Task Force 2024, a committee formed by Congress to carry out the Nav Sankalp (New Resolution) declaration approved in Udaipur in May 2022. In addition to Kanugolu, the team includes P Chidambaram, Mukul Wasnik, Jairam Ramesh, KC Venugopal, Ajay Maken, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and Randeep Singh Surjewala.

According to some reports, the poll strategist is also credited with organising Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra, a march that covered over 4,000 kilometres from India's southernmost coast to Jammu and Kashmir. The yatra is believed to have been a pivotal initiative by the grand old party that resulted in several recent election outcomes tipping points.
Looking ahead, Sunil Kanugolu's major tasks include restoring the Congress's political fortunes in Telangana, retaining Congress governments in upcoming elections in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, leading the Congress to victory in Madhya Pradesh, and, most importantly, transforming the Congress into a formidable and winning contender against the PM Modi-led BJP in the 2024 general elections.

First Published: May 15 2023 | 10:03 AM IST

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