Congress poll strategist Sunil Kanugolu appointed chief advisor to Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah

Sunil Kanugolu played a key role in ensuring the victory of the grand old party in the recently concluded Assembly elections.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jun 01, 2023 | 1:06 AM Updated Jun 01, 2023 | 8:19 AM

File photo of political strategist Sunil Kanugolu.

The Congress’ star political strategist Sunil Kanugolu has been appointed the chief advisor to Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, an official notification from the Chief Minister’s Office said on Wednesday, 31 May.

Sunil Kanugolu has been given a Cabinet-rank position with this key appointment.

Credited as the brain behind several of the Congress’ successful poll campaigns, ground surveys, and feedback systems aiding in candidate selection and booth management in Karnataka, Sunil Kanugolu is also an AICC member from the state.

Having aided the Congress’ stellar victory in the 2023 Karnataka Assembly polls, Kanugolu — with is appointment as the chief advisor of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah — will continue to strategise election campaigns for the Congress in other poll-bound states.

The Congress won a record 135 Assembly seats in the Karnataka polls. The incumbent BJP was reduced to a mere 66 seats and the JD(S) managed just 19 seats.

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Who is Sunil Kanugolu?

Sunil Kanugolu played a key role in ensuring the victory of the Congress in the recently concluded Karnataka elections — his first independent big-ticket win in an Assembly poll so far.

Kanugolu currently heads the Congress’ in-house election strategy team INClusive Minds and is also the founder of the strategy and consultancy firm MindShare Analytics.

A media-shy and reclusive poll consultant, Kanugolu was among the founders of the BJP’s relentless election strategy and campaign organisation Association of Brilliant Minds (ABM).

Several of his out-of-the-box strategies for the Congress’ poll campaign in Karnataka were similar to campaigns run by the Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG) and ABM — both outfits he has been part of — that have worked for BJP’s election campaigns.

Sunil Kanugolu was part of the CAG put together by another renowned poll strategist, Prashant Kishor, to run Narendra Modi’s prime-ministerial campaign in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but his association with Modi predates the formation of the organisation.

Kanugolu, a former McKinsey consultant, was born in Ballari in Karnataka and lived in Chennai for several years before pursuing his postgraduate degree from New York University. He currently resides in Bengaluru.

In a career spanning over a decade in the world of political consultancy, Kanugolu has strategised for at least 15 elections so far and is now looking to aid the Congress in Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

While he is a full-time member of the Congress now — a precondition to him strategising elections for the party — Sunil Kanugolu has worked with the BJP, SAD, AIADMK, and the DMK in the past.

He initially worked extensively behind the doors for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, and Karnataka, the last one being in the 2018 Assembly elections.

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With the Congress

In 2022, the Congress hired Kanugolu as its key poll strategist. Then AICC president Sonia Gandhi also included him as one of the members of the party’s 2024 Lok Sabha polls task force.

He is also credited with helping design the Congress’ Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.

This 4,080-kilometre yatra passed through 14 states — including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh.

This yatra started on 7 September, 2022, and concluded on 30 January, 2023. It boosted the Congress as it was one of the biggest campaigns organised by the party to connect with people from all walks of life.

Kanugolu started his work for the Karnataka Assembly elections in 2022. After he began working for the Congress, he succeeded in bringing the party to power in his very first assignment.

He worked closely with AICC general secretaries Randeep Singh Surjewala and KC Venugopal — besides Siddaramaiah, DK Shivakumar, and other senior MLAs of the party — in the polls, ensuring that the leaders became the face of strategies.

In the next six months, his major assignments include the Assembly elections in Telangana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.

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