Just eight days after Narendra Modi was welcomed as the new Prime Minister of India, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has lost one of their top ranked allies, tasked with helping to revitalise the Indian economy.
Rural Development Minister Gopinath Munde died on Tuesday 3rd June after a road collision in New Delhi. The politician was on his way to the airport when his Sedan was hit by a car and he subsequently died from his injuries in hospital.
The 64-year-old’s body was brought to the party’s headquarters where dozens of supporters swarmed the flower-bedecked truck, with Modi laying a wreath whilst consoling the family.
“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.”
India's roads are amongst the most dangerous in the world, and the capital, New Delhi, ranks near the top of cities that account for the most fatalities.
Modi had entrusted to Munde the crucial task of spearheading a battle on poverty in the countryside, home to more than half of India's population of 1.2billion, but which contributes just 14 percent of gross domestic product in Asia's third-largest economy.
The minister was sitting in the back of his Maruti SX4 sedan when it was hit on the side by a Tata Indica saloon, whose driver, police said, remained 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, adding: “There was no spontaneous breathing, no pulse, no cardiac activity.”
India is the world's capital of road deaths, thanks to a lethal brew of poor road planning, weak law enforcement, a surge in trucks and cars, and a flood of untrained drivers.
More than 230,000 people were killed on Indian roads in 2010, at 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 injured in the same period, the National Crime Records Bureau says.
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 BJP labour minister, in 2007.