9 things to know about ex-BJP ideologue Sudheendra Kulkarni

Mumbai: Sudheendra Kulkarni, the man responsible for LK Advani’s now infamous Jinnah speech is again back under the spotlight with Shiv Sena smearing ink on his face for organising former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book launch.

Sudheendra Kulkarni

In a way, Kulkarni is an oddball in Indian politics. Originally a card-carrying Marxist with pro-Soviet leanings, Sudheendra became an BJP ideologue when it hadn’t become the latest fad. He was one of the ‘liberal’ talents attracted by the Vajpayee- Advani era of BJP, who always had a difficult relationship with its parent body RSS.

Here are some salient features of Kulkarni’s political life so far.

  1. IIT Bombay alumni Kulkarni, was originally member of CPI(M).

  2. He has worked as a journalist, editing Mumbai-based tabloid Blitz.

  3. Though he formally joined BJP in 1996, Kulkarni was associated with both Vajpayee and Advani from the late 80s, at a time when the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was just taking off.

  4. Kulkarni was the speech writer for former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was known for his stunning oratory and phrases. The man who gave the ideological spin laced with hard data to Vajpayee was the unassuming back-room boy Kulkarni. He formally worked as Director, Communications and Research in the PMO.

  5. In 2005, Kulkarni formally left BJP after the furore over Advani’s speech in Pakistan where he called Jinnah ‘secular’. Kulkarni was reportedly behind writing that speech. A civil engineer by profession, Sudheendra however said that he had only done what he was asked to do.

  6. Kulkarni became associated with BJP again and was part of the Advani’s core team in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections where the veteran leader was saffron party’s PM candidate.

  7. After the election debacle, Kulkarni lambasted BJP’s strategies and also RSS’s interference in it, which he believed led to the downfall.

  8. Sudheendra Kulkarni masterminded the ‘cash for vote’ sting in 2008. The purpose was to show UPA resorting to horse-trading to get numbers after the Left withdrew support on the Indo-US deal. During debate, three BJP MPs showed wads of cash which they claimed where given by the government side to garner their support. BJP also gave ‘documentary evidence’ to support their proof. Parliamentary committee however found no evidence of bribing. A police investigation started in 2009. An investigation committee recommended action on leaders including Kulkarni.

In September 2011, Kulkarni was arrested in connection with the scandal. He maintained that his work was only that of a whistleblower. However, within two months he walked out of Tihar jail, with High Court saying the leaders wouldn’t have conducted a sting operation if their purpose was to take bribe.

  1. In 2012, Kulkarni again became close to BJP and there were reports of him working closely with Nitin Gadkari. He even defended Gadkari over various corruption charges.

Kulkarni is a rare breed of free-thinking intellectual who has found it hard to be part of a structured party and tempering his views according to its norms. Kulkarni may have written a number of erudite articles and his written speeches may have moved many a troubling soul, but the lingering image of him smeared in black ink will be the one he will be remembered for by the coming generations. There lies his greatest tragedy.