Bhubaneswar : BJP today named the venue of its national executive meeting here after the dalit poet Bhima Bhoi apparently to woo dalits who comprise over 17 per cent of Odisha’s population.

“The national executive meeting venue has been named after revolutionary poet Bhima Bhoi. The saint poet had unique ideology which is being followed by crores of people in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand,” Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said inagurating the media centre set up for BJP’s national executive.

Pradhan said the dalit saint poet was blind since birth but wrote a number of revolutionary poems and his ideology has been appreciated by the United Nations. “Bhima Bhoi was also a social reformer and symbol of brotherhood and respected by people, mostly poor,” Pradhan said.

Of the 147 assembly segments in Odisha, 23 seats are reserved for scheduled caste candidates while three of its 21 Lok Sabha seats are allotted to the dalit community.

BJP had won only two SC seats in the assembly and none of the three LS seats allotted to the community.

The party now focuses on dalit votes which traditionally belonged to Congress but has now slipped into hands of the BJD.

The dalit population in the state is 71,48,463 according to the 2011 census.

BJP president Amit Shah started his three-day tour of Odisha by garlanding the statue of B R Ambedkar at the AG Chhak near the state secretariat.

Earlier in the morning, RSS members had also garlanded the statue on the occasion of his 126th birth anniversary.

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