The Aam Aadmi Party candidate from Vadodara, Sunil Digambar Kulkarni, is known as “Tabassum’s husband” in the Muslim neighbourhood of Fatehpura. He denies it, saying his wife is Dhanashree of Pune. And Tabassum Sheikh contradicts herself, saying he did marry her and then denying it.
Kulkarni, a mechanical engineer hailing from Nashik, owns a company, ASK Infra Con Projects Pvt Ltd, whose primary clients are the Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra governments. He runs his six-year-old firm from Fatehpura, where he is known as a philanthropist who offers niyaz (food distributed to the poor) spending lakhs during Muharram. Part of the Anna Hazare movement for the Jan Lokpal bill, he joined the AAP that his fielded him against Narendra Modi and Madhusudan Mistry.
He says his wife Dhanashree is settled in Pune. His Facebook page, however, has two pictures of Tabassum’s son Sanjar, uploaded in 2011. One caption reads, “My daughter asmita natty brother”, the other just “sanjar”. From his marriage to Dhanashree, Kulkarni has a daughter, Asmita.
Tabassum lives in an apartment in Tandalja, a mixed neighbourhood. Neighbours say Kulkarni too lives there with Tabassum, her mother, sister and their two children: Tehreen, 12 and Sanjar, 5.
When the candidature was announced, Tabassum told The Indian Express, “I will actively campaign by word of mouth for him among my community and his community too will support him.” She said she had met Kulkarni while working in a bank in Mumbai and they married. Later the same day, she said she was the wife of “Ghulam Sheikh”, a friend of Kulkarni, and that her only relationship with Kulkarni was as the landlady of his Fatehpura office. “My husband and Kulkarni had a business partnership in Mumbai and that is how we know each other.”
But Raju, a hairdresser near Kulkarni’s office said, “We know Kulkarni and Tabassum have two children together. Tabassum is his second wife. His first wife has never been seen around.”
Asked why Fatehpura calls him “Tabassum’s husband”, Kulkarni says: “I have rented office space from her and we have good family relations.”