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Indian minister killed in car crash

Gopinath Munde, rural development minister, dies in road accident in New Delhi, just eight days after taking office.

Last updated: 03 Jun 2014 12:19
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Modi, at right, described the death of Munde, far left, via Twitter as a major loss for his government [AFP]

A newly appointed Indian government minister has been killed in a traffic accident, just eight days after taking office.

Gopinath Munde, the rural development minister, died on Tuesday following a collision in the Indian capital New Delhi, depriving Narendra Modi, the prime minister, of a senior ally.

The accident happened while Munde was driving to Delhi's airport en route to his home state of Maharashtra to attend a political rally.

"An accident took place earlier in the morning, following which he was taken to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. Doctors declared him dead at about 8am," Nitin Gadkari, India's transport minister, told local media.

Gopinath Munde, India's rural development minister, seen here taking his oath during the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 26 [AFP]

Munde, 64, was conscious and able to talk to his bodyguard after the accident, but died from cardiac arrest, Gadkari said.

Modi was among those to pay tribute to Munde, saying his death was a "major loss" for the country.

"Extremely saddened & shocked by the demise of my friend & colleague Gopinath Munde ji," Modi said on his official Twitter account. "His demise is a major loss for the Nation & the Govt."

"Condolences to Munde's family. We stand by them in this hour of grief," he said, "my tributes to a dynamic leader whose premature demise leaves a void hard to fill."

Munde was deputy chief minister in the western state of Maharashtra from 1995 to 1999 and elected twice to India's lower house of parliament, in 2009 and 2014.

He had served as deputy leader of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in parliament.

The position of rural development is a crucial one in Modi's government, which faces a challenge to tackle rural poverty.

More than half of the Indian population lives in the countryside, but generates just 14 percent of the country's gross domestic product. 

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