Bihar Governor and the BJP’s presidential pick Ram Nath Kovind wanted to visit the Retreat Building, part of the presidential estate, during a trip to Shimla with his family late last month but was denied entry. A few weeks from now, the low-profile Kovind, whose family roamed around in hired taxis in Shimla, could well be the custodian of the sprawling presidential summer retreat, about 15 km from here. Kovind, 71, who arrived here on May 28, visited several places in and around Shimla. However, when he reached the Retreat in a high security zone in the leafy Mashobra hills, he could not enter the complex as he did not have the required prior permission.
The Retreat 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 (IIAS). The president visits the Retreat at least once a year and the core office shifts during his stay.
Shashi Kant, advisor to Himachal Pradesh Governor Acharya Devvrat, said, “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.”
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.
It took him five-and-a-half hours to reach Shimla from Chandigarh by road against the normal two-and-a-half hours. A close friend of the Himachal Pradesh governor, Kovind gifted a box of mangoes and an idol of Lord Buddha to him. The presidential election, if required, will be held on July 17.