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Meet Sunil Kanugolu: The Poll Strategist Behind Congress's Win In Karnataka

He was part of the 2014 campaign for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP-led campaigns in several states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat

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Karnataka Elections: Celebrations in Bengaluru
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The Congress registered a thumping victory over BJP in Karnataka by winning 135 seats out of a total of 224. The party improved its vote share by more than four per cent across different regions of Karnataka in the Assembly elections, taking its tally of seats beyond the 130-mark. It is the biggest win for any party since 1989.

While many reasons can be attributed to this win, one person who was tasked with devising the strategy for the grand old party was poll strategist Sunil Kanugolu. He has been working with the party since late last year. 

A Congress leader told PTI that Kanugolu will now play a key role in shaping the party's campaign in Madhya Pradesh, where elections are scheduled to be held in or before November this year.

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Who is Sunil Kanugolu?

According to a report by NDTV, Kanugolu was born in Karnataka's Ballari district and is originally a Telugu speaker. He completed his middle school education here and later relocated to Bengaluru where he now resides. 

Kanugolu has earlier also worked with the BJP, DMK, and AIADMK. In fact, he worked with the BJP during the Karnataka elections in 2018 apart from being a part of other election campaigns as well.

What were his past assignments?

He was part of the 2014 campaign for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP-led campaigns in several states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.

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He was also the founder of Association of Brilliant Minds (ABM), a body which advised the BJP on various election-related work and was also BJP's campaign body for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections. 

NDTV also reported that Kanugolu worked with the global management consulting firm McKinsey before starting work with political parties.

His plan for Karnataka

After poll strategist Prashant Kishor declined the Congress's offer to join the party on April 26 last year, Sunil Kanugolu was brought on board to help with the party's election strategy for various elections across India, the Hindustan Times reported.

He has been credited with planning Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra which travelled over 4,000 km from the southern tip of India to Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, after the election results in Karnataka, senior Congress leaders including Jairam Ramesh and Digvijaya Singh claimed that the Yatra translated into increased vote share in regions where the Congress had not made inroads before.

Jairam Ramesh also put out a table on social media that compared the party's performance in 20 assembly seats through which the Yatra passed. The list showed Congress making gains in areas which were earlier won by the BJP.

Reports pointed out that the poll strategist took ‘corruption’ as the key poll plank against the ruling party which started with "PayCM" and continued with "Kivi Mele Hoova" (flower over the ear). The NDTV report also said that the Congress this time relied on extensive field surveys, statistics and analytics and not just the personal preferences of local leaders. 

As the race for the next Karnataka chief minister heats up, all eyes are now on the Congress' top leadership on their pick for the top post in the southern state.

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