A new design for Gandhi scion’s summer home in Shimla

Charabra (Himachal Pradesh), June 16 (IANS) Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Vadra’s summer abode amid forests of pine and cedar has come up again with a new design, an open terrace at the top and drive-in. Its lawns, now larger, will bloom with cherries and peaches.

Her two-storey, five-room cottage was pulled down four years ago as the Gandhi scion reportedly wanted the house to have bigger rooms and a stronger foundation. A new structure, rising from the debris of the old one, appears to be almost complete, except rooftop work and internal work.

In less than a month Priyanka twice visited the cottage located close to The Retreat, the summer holiday resort of the Indian president, and the Oberoi Group’s luxury spa Wildflower Hall.

Already the gardeners, as per her instructions, have planted cherry and peach saplings in the lawns, which are now bigger than the previous ones.

“The structure is almost ready to Priyanka’s satisfaction and now the exteriors and interiors work will start but after the monsoon,” the person in the know told IANS, requesting anonymity.

The five-room cottage, just 15 km uphill from state capital Shimla and located at a height of more than 8,000 feet, includes a family lounge and a guest room on the ground floor.

A state Congress leader, who has helped the Gandhi scion in buying the agricultural plot, said the earlier house had less space in its backyard and that was not secure from the security point of view. Moreover, the cottage had a seepage problem in the slate roof.

The Vadras purchased a three-and-a-half bigha (one bigha is 0.4 hectare) agricultural plot in 2007. In 2011, they purchased additional land near the existing one.

Priyanka, her children and her mother Sonia Gandhi were here last month to inspect the construction work.

“The exteriors and interiors can be designed as per the local architecture. But so far no decision has been taken,” said a Shimla-based builder, who is assisting Delhi-based architects.

Recently, a Right to Information (RTI) activist was denied information about the details of Priyanka’s house and plot.

Priyanka is one of the most high-profile people to build a house in Himachal Pradesh years after former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee chose Manali for a cottage.

The then Congress government in the state had relaxed norms to enable the Vadras to buy the land.

Under the Himachal Pradesh land laws, only the state’s agriculturalists can buy land in the state. Non-agriculturists in the state and outsiders seeking to buy property other than what is offered by the state housing board will have to seek permission from the government under the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act of 1972.

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