In Himachal hills lies Priyanka Gandhi’s dream cottage

June 21st, 2009 - 12:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Priyanka Gandhi By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, June 21 (IANS) A cottage tucked away in the hills, amid cherry and apple trees, with deodars lining the road.

That’s the dream house of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s daughter, coming up in picturesque Himachal Pradesh.

In typical hill architecture style with wooden frames and a sloping tiled roof, the cottage is being built at a height of more than 8,000 feet amid thick verdant forests of pine and cedar in the Charabra area, about 15 km uphill from here, in Shimla district.

Priyanka, her children and her mother Sonia Gandhi were here earlier this week to inspect the construction work of the two-storey house on a four-bigha plus agricultural plot.

“We are doing the best possible to give shape to the house in typical hill architecture style - all wooden frames and shingled eaves,” Kehar Singh Khachi, a Congress activist who is supervising the cottage construction, told IANS.

Khachi played a key role in buying the land for around Rs.4.7 million in 2007. The plot is close to The Retreat, the summer holiday resort of the Indian president.

“Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra selected this place at first sight after seeing four other sites in and around the area. This site attracted them because of the panoramic view of the Himalayas and its proximity to the helipad (Kalyani),” he said.

Oberoi Group’s luxury spa Wildflower Hall is just half a kilometre away from Priyanka’s cottage. She 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 has been handed over to Delhi-based architects.

“It’s going to be a simple four-bedroom cottage with exteriors and interiors suiting the local architecture,” Rajiv Narayan, an architect who is supervising the construction work, told IANS. “For this, special instructions have been issued to the artisans and workers.”

For roofing, special slate stone will be used, he said, adding that “slate samples have been arranged from Mandi, Chamba and Kangra districts. The final selection is yet to be made. Madam (Priyanka) is keen to use dark coloured slate for the roofing. The house will be ready to move in by next year”.

Cottage caretaker Khachi said: “Specific instructions have been given by Priyankaji not to cut or chop trees even in the nearby area. She is keen that the narrow path leading to the house is retained and a separate drive-in is constructed to the house.”

“She is also keen to have fruit trees on the campus of the house. Some cherry and apple saplings have been planted. Plantation of deodar and some fast-growing trees along the road leading to her house will also be undertaken.

“This time Priyanka and her mother were quite satisfied with the ongoing construction work. She (Priyanka) took photos and discussed broad plans with the architects.”

Vidya Stokes, a former cabinet minister who enjoys close proximity with the Gandhi family, has also played an important role in helping Priyanka buy the land.

“It’s an honour for us that a member of the Gandhi family is becoming a resident of this state too. Earlier, it was only Vajpayeeji and now there’s Priyanka,” Stokes said.

In 2007, the then Congress government in the state had relaxed norms to let the Vadras buy the land from US-based Satish Kumar Sood and Satinder Sood.

Under Himachal Pradesh land laws, only the state’s permanent residents can buy the land in the state. Others who want to purchase the land for non-agricultural purposes have to seek relaxations under Section 118 of the Land Reforms and Tenancy Act from the state government.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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