As the BJP stunned Maharashtra’s ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government by winning the sixth Rajya Sabha seat, a key person in Devendra Fadnavis’s team being credited with formulating the strategy for the party is Ashish Kulkarni.
Currently a vice-president in Maharashtra unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Kulkarni started his career with the Shiv Sena before moving to the Congress in 2003 and finally, to his present party – the BJP – a few years back.
At the Sena, he worked under Subhash Desai, who is now the industries minister, and was also considered a trusted aide of party founder Bal Thackeray.
BJP’s Dhananjay Mahadik defeated Sena’s Sanjay Pawar in the RS polls, the results for which were announced on Saturday.
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“Our strategy for RS polls was very simple. We gave highest votes – 48 – for Union minister Piyush Goyal and former Maharashtra minister Anil Bonde and second preference of all our MLAs to Mahadik, who was the third candidate. This plan was devised by Kulkarni and finalised by leader of opposition Fadnavis along with BJP’s observer Ashwini Vaishnav,’’ said a leader of the party.
Goyal and Bonde got 48 votes, which translate into 4800 marks; the second preference votes were transferred to Mahadik.
“In all, the BJP got votes of 106 members of legislative Assembly (MLAs). Besides the eight independent candidates, they got nine others due to which Mahadik got a total of 4,156 marks,” the leader quoted above said.
The strategy planned by Kulkarni was fine tuned by Fadnavis; a top BJP functionary said that only Fadnavis and Vaishnav were aware of the plan. “They got the rest of the independent MLAs and those of smaller groups to their side, thanks to Fadnavis’s skills,’’ the leader said.
Kulkarni left the Sena around two decades back as he felt sidelined after Uddhav Thackeray took over the party. He also had close association with Narayan Rane, who was also finding it tough to get along with Uddhav.
He moved to the Congress and was given the responsibility of six parliamentary seats in 2009; the party won all of them. He was asked to draw a strategy for state elections the same year which the Congress won as well. His acumen was then recognised by the Gandhi family and he was moved to Delhi to work with Ahmed Patel, then political adviser to the Congress president.
In 2010, Kulkarni was also credited with helping then chief minister Ashok Chavan of the Congress get party candidate Vijay Sawant elected on an MLC ticket, which the latter won with a slender margin.
In 2017, Kulkarni quit the Congress and freelanced for some time before joining the BJP.
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