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Indian Minister Killed in Head-on Collision

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde takes the oath of office during a swearing-in ceremony for new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his council of ministers in New Delhi, May 26, 2014.
An Indian minister and key ally of new Prime Minister Narendra Modi has died following a car accident in the capital, New Delhi.

Hospital officials say Rural Development Minister Gopinath Munde was on his way to the airport Tuesday when his car was hit by another vehicle.

The 64-year-old Munde then asked his driver to rush him to the hospital, where officials say he later died from cardiac arrest.

“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 8 am,” Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari told reporters.

Munde was a senior leader in Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party. He was sworn in last week following Modi's landslide election victory.

On Twitter, Prime Minister Modi said he is "extremely saddened and shocked" at the death of Munde, calling him a "dynamic leader whose premature demise leaves a void hard to fill."

Gopinath 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 huge challenge to tackle rural poverty. Over half the population lives in the countryside but generates just 14 percent of gross domestic product.

Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.

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