|Rural development minister charged with reviving economy dies on his way to victory rally after collision with another car
India's minister for rural development has been killed in a road accident, depriving Narendra Modi of a key ally just eight days after coming to office as prime minister with a mandate to revitalise a stalled economy.
Gopinath Munde, 64, was on his way to the airport for a victory rally in his home state of Maharashtra on India's west coast when his car collided with another vehicle. He died later in hospital.
India's roads are among the most dangerous in the world and Delhi one of the cities that account for the greatest number of fatalities.
"My tributes to a dynamic leader whose premature demise leaves a void hard to fill," Modi said in a tweet, amid a flurry of tributes from allies and political opponents. "Condolences to Munde's family. We stand by them in this hour of grief."
Modi had entrusted to Munde the crucial task of spearheading his government's battle against poverty in the countryside, home to more than half of India's population of 1.2 billion, but which contributes just 14% of gross domestic product in Asia's third-largest economy.
The minister was sitting in the back of his Maruti SX4 when it was hit on the side by a Tata Indica, whose driver police said was in custody. Munde's driver and a personal assistant survived.
Doctors tried to revive Munde for 50 minutes after he was taken to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital, a hospital spokesman said. "There was no spontaneous breathing, no pulse, no cardiac activity," he added.
Television pictures of Munde's car at a police station showed frontal damage and dents and scrapes down its left side.
More than 230,000 people were killed on Indian roads in 2010, or a rate of almost 19 deaths per 100,000 people. As many as 15 people died in road accidents every hour in India in 2012 with 53 more injured, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
Munde becomes at least the third senior Indian politician to die in a car crash in recent times. The Congress party's Rajesh Pilot, a former transport minister, was killed in 2000, and Sahib Singh Verma, a former labour minister belonging to Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, died in 2007.