Listed along with veteran Congress leaders such as P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, KC Venugopal, Randeep Singh Surjewala, is Kanugolu who has been meeting the Gandhis for the last six months, and has been tasked with the difficult job of providing crucial advice to Rahul Gandhi on political strategy and election management.
Kanugolu, ET has learnt, has been asked to explore new modes of technology to help with the party’s communication exercise and help the party counter the BJP’s social media influence, by getting the grand old party to adapt modern use of data mining techniques and bring the strength of data to its campaigns.
Kanugolu’s strength lies in his understanding of data, caste, alliances and communication, all of which the Congress can use to its advantage. A Telugu from a business family in Chennai, Kanugolu, who did his schooling for Asan Memorial in the city and has worked in multiple consulting firms and has already begun work on the Congress campaign in Karnataka and Telangana.
One of the major assignments given to the forty-year-old is reviving the Congress’ fortunes in Telangana where he planned Rahul Gandhi’s massive rally in Warangal two weeks ago. Kanugolu has been trying to wean away the minority votes from the TRS and make the Congress the most preferred party of the Muslims.
At the Congress’ chintan shivir in Udaipur last week, he is learnt to have laid the groundwork for the party work in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh polls slated next year-end. He has excused himself from the Gujarat campaign as there is “too little time for the Congress” to make a difference, ET has learnt.
Kanugolu has also been asked to put in place a proactive Congress social media ecosystem by recruiting committed young people. He has worked with the BJP in the past in the Lok Sabha polls, the assembly polls of Uttarakhand, UP, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in 2017, Karnataka in 2018 before switching over to the DMK and then coming back to work for the BJP-AIADMK alliance in 2021. It was under him that the DMK swept the state despite the Narendra Modi wave of 2014.
According to senior Congress leaders, Kanugolu’s advice to Gandhis has been in many areas, including to reduce their constant attack on the RSS and so as to not give the organisation an exalted status equivalent to a political counter, or even not worry too much about parties such as AAP eating away the party’s vote as that would dilute the party’s intent and push to counter the BJP.
A person in know of the matter said Kanugolu was far “more practical and grounded” in his approach compared to many of the advisors who have been with the party earlier. “Unlike many others, he is low profile, doesn’t dilly-dally, and is not fixated on being in Delhi all the time and has already started work on elections in the four states. His signature approach seems to be to start over a year in advance and have a lot of data before meetings. Worker feedback meetings are being taken very seriously now,” a Congress functionary in Karnataka said.