Shimla: Even as the Congress General Secretary turns on the heat in the plains with her political posturing, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has readied herself a place in the cool climes of Shimla and is all set to move into her dream house set amid cherry, peach and apple trees
Currently, the five-room cottage — with wooden frames and shingled exteriors and a sloping tiled roof — is being furbished with interiors at a height of more than 8,000 feet amid thick forests of pine and cedar in Charabra, some 15 km uphill from the Himachal Pradesh capital.
A state Congress leader said the earlier house had less space in its backyard and that it was not secure from the security point of view. Moreover, the cottage had a seepage problem in the slate roof.
Priyanka Gandhi along with her children and mother Sonia Gandhi are regularly visiting to inspect the construction work of the two-storey house on a four-bigha plus agricultural plot that was purchased in 2007.
“We are getting the best possible wood for the interior work,” an official supervising the cottage construction told IANS.
He said the walnut wood is being mainly used for carvings, ceiling designing and for some daily use furniture items. The main furniture has already been purchased from the designer.
“After the monsoon rains, the polish work of the wood will begin. The entire interior work is likely to be over by October and will be ready for possession too,” he added.
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, an open terrace at the top, bigger rooms and drive-in.
Already the planted cherry trees in the lawns are bearing fruits. Last month some cherry boxes were sent to Priyanka in New Delhi, a caretaker said.
He said some saplings of almond were also planted in the lawns.
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.