Bengaluru: Inside the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) swanky new state headquarters in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, the vacant chair reserved for a future BJP chief minister pretty much sums up the party’s ambition in a state where it has never won more than one seat in an election, barring local body polls.

However, the adjacent room, that of the state party president, the man who could turn the dream into reality, remains empty. More than a month after the BJP abruptly removed firebrand Hindutva-activist-turned-politician Kummanam Rajasekharan from the post, it is yet to appoint a successor.

With less than a year to go for the general elections, the leadership vacuum puts a spotlight on how India’s ruling party is squeezed between internal bickering and the complex web of alliance politics in Kerala, despite making significant political capital in recent years.

Kerala, the last bastion of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, is important for the BJP to redefine India’s political spectrum. It is also a state where its brand of politics has always been tough to sell, and one of the few states where it has never won a parliamentary seat.

With the saffron juggernaut on a roll in most states, the party has admitted that making strides in Kerala in 2019 is a matter of prestige.

But who would lead the party to that goal? There are two major factions within the Kerala unit, one led by V. Muraleedharan and the other by P.K. Krishna Das, both former BJP presidents. And, both are lobbying to get their loyalists selected for the top post. This makes it difficult to choose a new chief, said two BJP state leaders, requesting anonymity.

To add to the woes, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) leadership has also been vigorously pushing their nominees, one of leaders said. Both Muraleedharan and Krishna Das were not available for comment.

Kerala, traditionally, has favoured coalition fronts representing various political and communal hues. The BJP is also worried about how the new chief would deal with the various communal equations in Kerala, especially among the lower-caste Hindus, a critical vote bank of the communists.

“Kerala is (a) very tight (state), it has a history of alliance politics and BJP is still learning the art of managing alliances there," said a Bengaluru-based BJP leader, who is involved in the top-level discussions on the issue, requesting not to be named.

We are targeting a micro faction within the Hindu community, and among educated Christians, so the new chief has to be someone who can satisfy this social equilibrium, he said.

“A decision will be taken in a span of months, and I can assure that it will be someone from the BJP itself. No non-politician, no dark-horse, no RSS candidate," the BJP leader said.