Shimla, Aug 6 : Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has sought the permission of the BJP government in Himachal Pradesh to spend three weeks along with her family and friends in the cool climes of her dream house set amid the cherry, peach and apple trees on the outskirts of the state capital.
The five-room cottage — with wooden frames and shingled exteriors and a sloping tiled roof — has recently completed its construction at a height of more than 8,000 feet amid thick forests of pine and cedar in Charabra, some 15 km uphill from Shimla.
A state Congress leader told IANS that Priyanka Gandhi wants to stay in her cottage from August 10 for a minimum of 20 days. This will be her first homecoming as the construction of the cottage has just got over.
“We are awaiting the response of the government. She has assured to follow all the health protocols while coming and staying in her cottage that include 14-day mandatory quarantine and getting the Covid-19 tests done for all the people who are accompanying her,” said the leader, requesting anonymity.
People accompanying her include some of her family friends from Delhi, Gurugram and Bengaluru, said sources.
Ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, Priyanka Gandhi, along with her children and mother Sonia Gandhi, had been regularly visiting to inspect the construction work of the two-storey house on a 4-bigha plus agricultural plot that was purchased in 2007.
Congress leader and former Cabinet Minister Vidya Stokes had played an important role in helping Priyanka Gandhi buy a three-and-a-half bigha (one bigha is 0.4 hectare) agricultural plot for around Rs 47 lakh in 2007. The then Congress government in the state had relaxed norms to let the Vadras buy the land.
The plot is close to The Retreat, the summer holiday resort of the Indian President.
Oberoi Group’s luxury spa Wildflower Hall also lies close to Priyanka Gandhi’s cottage. The Congress leader is one of the most high-profile people to build a house in Himachal Pradesh, years after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee chose Kullu Valley for a cottage.
The work for the cottage was initially handed over to Delhi-based architects in 2008.
In 2011, the entire building was pulled down — not because of any dispute — but apparently the Gandhi scion was unhappy with the size of the rooms and the building design, leaders privy to the Gandhi family said.
Later, it was re-constructed and redesigned by renowned Shimla-based builder Tenzin in the hill architecture style with strong foundation, with an open terrace at the top, and bigger rooms and drive-in.
The then Himachal Pradesh government had relaxed land rules under Section 118 of the Land Reforms and Tenancy Act to facilitate the sale for the Gandhi family.
The law prohibits outsiders from buying land in the hilly state and those who wish to buy land for non-agricultural purposes have to seek a relaxation from the government.