Minister who loves playing many roles

Apart from two tigresses named after her, she holds half-a-dozen portfolios in the Rajasthan Cabinet and an ever growing fan following. Congress's Bina Kak, who insists she is not just a politician but also an 'actor and social activist' has often found herself in the midst of controversies.

Recently, Kak, as the minister of environment and forests, was pulled up for naming two sub adult tigresses Bina 1, Bina 2 after herself and had to eventually rename them, but that did little to cramp her style.

SOCIALLY ACTIVE

At a time when the Congress has been trying to work on its social media presence, Kak is in a league of her own. Be it the Chintan Shivir or Jaipur Literature Festival, Kak's presence is felt not only at the event but the memories linger on her official page, 'Bina Kak Politician, Actor, Social Activist', on Facebook. At times she is seen with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi at the Chintan Shivir. At others, she is seen with the Dalai Lama. These are moments you might have missed in the tabloids, but Kak relives them on her page eliciting appreciation from a following of over 5,000, who go as far to call her the 'future Prime Minister'.

Some of the pictures could be misleading, say her critics. One such dissenting voice tells us that Kak's self-professed intimacy with the Gandhis is not so much as it appears on her page.

However, when it comes to her involvement with stars from the tinsel town, there is little doubt that she is a popular figure there. Recently, Kak was seen giving the muhurat clap for Aamir Khan's upcoming film while an older post shows her wishing actor Salman Khan, who she calls 'my loving brother', good luck for his treatment.

SALMAN CONNECTION

Kak made her debut in Bollywood in 2005 with a David Dhawan film, Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya, where she played Salman's mother. In the following years she did cameos in movies like God Tussi Great Ho, where she again played his mother. The bond in real life can be traced back to 1998 when Salman got involved in a blackbuck poaching case. Kak, then minister of tourism and culture in the Ashok Gehlot government, is said to have pulled the actor out of the pit. Kak's daughter, Amrita, made a mark in Bollywood by singing hit numbers Dhinka Chika, Character Dheela for Salman's movies.

In February 2009, Salman's Veer was being shot in the Amber Fort when a wall collapsed, injuring 15 onlookers. Kak, too, featured in the film and had relaxed norms to give approvals for the shooting. The high court took notice of the incident and commented, "Money and greed, coupled with power create blindness, madness and the person becomes totally insane and insensitive. When the government and public authorities indulge in such practice, a great havoc is created resulting in chaos all around. The episode and mishap happened in Amber Palace is a glaring example of the same."

RISING STAR?

A wildlife enthusiast, Kak says that her 'good work' in the area of environment conservation is visible. Wildlife conservationists might differ, but she enumerates projects such as the proposed panther reserve in her home constituency, Sumerpur, among others. Officials in her ministry say that they are kept on their toes with Kak's frequent visits to the state's reserves and parks. Kak, who is also a photographer, makes the most of her tours, capturing shots and never disappoints her Facebook followers who get a close-up of her visits within hours, sometimes within minutes.

Kak's official page gives a peek into her glamorous life, but talks little of her ministries' policies. At a time when Chief Minister Gehlot is said to have sent out a message to his ministers by setting an example with his Facebook page, where he popularises the government's initiatives, Kak's self indulgence has rubbed many a Congress leader the wrong way. But her fluency in English, rapport with cultural stalwarts and her charm have gone a long way in making her an ambassador of the state. She can also be credited with bringing in events like Jahan-e-Khusrau to the state.

Feminist activist Kamla Bhasin's sibling, Kak's initiatives as minister of women and child development are noteworthy. The government approved her ministry's girl child policy, being the first state to adopt a policy exclusively for girls. Kak, 59, is a four-time member of the Assembly and a prominent face since her stint as a minister in 1998. In 2000, she hit the headlines for accompanying former US President Bill Clinton in the Rajasthan leg of his India visit. While her political career since then has seen a meteoric rise, her personal life suffered a setback in the early 2000s when she separated from her husband, Bharat Kak, a Congress zilla parishad member from Pali.

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