The Indian National Congress party has achieved a significant victory in the state of Karnataka, and one of the key architects of their triumph has been identified as Sunil Kanugolu, a former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strategist who defected to the Congress party just over a year ago. Despite his instrumental role in securing the election victory, Kanugolu has maintained a low profile throughout the process.
Working alongside Congress leaders such as DK Shivakumar, Siddaramaiah, and Randeep Surjewala, Kanugolu was responsible for the strategic planning of the party’s election campaign. He oversaw five surveys conducted in the lead up to the election, which informed the selection of candidates for the various constituencies. Ultimately, the party’s focus was directed towards around 70 key seats identified by Kanugolu’s team.
Congress leaders have praised Kanugolu’s efforts, highlighting his pivotal role in securing the party’s victory. “We had done five surveys in the last eight months,” said one anonymous Congress leader. “The candidates, barring a few seats at the end, were primarily picked based on these surveys carried out by Sunil Kanugolu’s team. On the basis of those surveys, we identified 70-odd hot seats. Accordingly, we deputed AICC observers drawn from across the country to each of these constituencies.”
Despite being a relative newcomer to the Congress party, Kanugolu has already made a significant impact. In May of last year, he was appointed as a member of the party’s 2024 Lok Sabha election task force, alongside high-profile figures such as P Chidambaram, Mukul Wasnik, Jairam Ramesh, K C Venugopal, Ajay Maken, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and Randeep Singh Surjewala.
Kanugolu’s background in political strategy is extensive, having previously worked alongside BJP heavyweight Amit Shah in Delhi until February 2018. He played a crucial role in successful BJP campaigns in various states, including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Karnataka, using a team of 300 people to shape the party’s electoral messaging.
Unlike his high-profile former colleague Prashant Kishor, Kanugolu maintains a reclusive presence and avoids any significant online presence. The two strategists previously worked together in 2014 before going their separate ways.