(Reuters) - Rural Development Minister Gopinath Munde died on Tuesday after a head-on road collision in New Delhi, depriving Prime Minister Narendra Modi of a senior ally just eight days after he took office.
Munde was injured while driving to the capital's airport and died later in hospital.
"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 a.m.," Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari told reporters.
Munde, 64, was conscious and able to talk to his bodyguard after the accident. He died in hospital from cardiac arrest, Gadkari added.
"Condolences to Munde's family. We stand by them in this hour of grief," Modi said in a tweet. "My tributes to a dynamic leader whose premature demise leaves a void hard to fill."
Gopinath was deputy chief minister in Maharashtra from 1995 to 1999 and elected twice to the Lok Sabha, 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.
Modi won a landslide victory in last month's general election, ending a decade of rule by the Congress party that has dominated Indian politics since independence.