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HYDERABAD, India (AP) _ The speaker of the Indian Parliament’s lower house was killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, officials said.
G.M.C. Balayogi, his personal assistant and the pilot were killed in the crash, the state chief minister’s office said.
It said the helicopter hit a tree in fog just after taking off from the town of Bhimavaram, where Balayogi attended a rally, for the capital of Hyderabad. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also attended the Global Peace Initiative rally, but traveled on another helicopter to Hyderabad.
Huckabee, a former pastor, is in India at the request of Global Peace Initiative to see their programs for orphans and homeless women.
Bhimavaram is about 845 miles southeast of New Delhi.
It does not appear the crash was related to Hindu-Muslim violence in India’s western Gujarat state that has killed more than 400 people since Wednesday.
Balayogi, the 50-year-old speaker of the Lok Sabha, the decision-making lower house of Parliament, belonged to the regional Telugu Desam Party based in Andhra Pradesh.
Balayogi was the first ``dalit,″ the lowest rung of India’s centuries-old caste hierarchy, to be elected speaker, an achievement hailed by social activists as a moral victory for the downtrodden.
He was first elected to the Parliament in 1991.
Telugu Desam, a secular party, is the second largest member of the 21-party coalition government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.