Why Kovind was denied entry to presidential retreat in Shimla last month
A little over three weeks ago, Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind, the BJP’s presidential nominee, was denied entry into Mashobra’s Retreat Building, part of the presidential estate in Himachal Pradesh, during a family trip.
A few weeks from now, the low-profile Kovind, whose family roamed around in hired taxis, could well be the custodian of the sprawling presidential summer retreat, about 15 km from Shimla.
Kovind is expected to win the July 17 presidential poll and succeed Pranab Mukherjee as India’s head of state. The BJP chose Kovind, who has worked for the uplift of Dalits, to reach out to the country’s backward castes.
The 71-year-old, who arrived on May 28, visited several places in and around Shimla. However, when he reached the Mashobra’s Retreat Building in a high security zone in the leafy Mashobra hills, Kovind could not enter the complex as he did not have the required permission.
The retreat is managed by the President of India’s office. Entry to the retreat is allowed only after permission from the President’s office. The Himachal Pradesh Police guard the retreat.
“Kovind did not call up anyone for permission but quietly returned to the Governor’s house at Barnes Court in Shimla. It was only on his return to Raj Bhawan that he told us that he was not allowed entry to the retreat,” Shashi Kant Sharma, the adviser to governor Acharya Dev Vrat, told HT.
The Mashobra’s Retreat Building was made a part of the presidential estate after the Viceregal Lodge, which was turned into Rashtrapati Bhavan after Independence, was handed over to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study.
“The Bihar governor visited the Kalyani helipad, constructed especially for the president, and I suggested he should visit forests of Shimla water supply catchment area, known as one of the best maintained forests in the world. He was fascinated by the greenery and scenic beauty,” said Sharma.
There is a long tradition that every year the President will take a “break” from work in Delhi and spend a few days in “The Retreat”.
In summer, the President goes to Mashobra, while in winter the President of India goes to Hyderabad.
“The location of ‘The Retreat Building’ in Shimla and the ‘Rashtrapati Nilayam’ in Hyderabad are indicative of the integrative role of the Office of the President of India in our country. These locations, one in north and another in south, symbolise unity of our country and unity of our diverse cultures and people,” says an official communiqué.
The Mashobra Retreat is a building that was taken over in 1895 by the then Viceroy. When the President visits The Retreat, his or her core office also shifts to that place for that period.
Kovind maintained a low-profile. Though he and his wife used an official vehicle, other family members went sightseeing in hired taxis.
The governor went to Mall Road and the Ridge. He expressed concern over increasing traffic congestion in the hill town and said steps should be taken to decongest the roads for the convenience of tourists.
“He visited Cheogh that has one of Asia’s dense forests,” said Sharma. “He was so impressed by nature’s bounty that he had nothing but praise for successive governments for protecting the flora and fauna there,” he says.
A close friend of the Himachal Pradesh governor, Kovind gifted a box of mangoes and an idol of Lord Buddha to him.
(With inputs from agencies)