The Nail Becomes A Screw

I just came across this old quote by Sitaram Kesri about Arjun Singh:

This man is so shrewd that if you put a nail in his head, it will come out as a screw.

And who gets screwed in all this? We do, that’s who.

In another piece in India Today, S Prasannarajan calls Singh “a study in the pathology of loyalty.” I don’t think Singh’s loyalty is pathological, though. I think he simply possesses the pathology of self-interest (as we all do, so that’s a rather banal statement). His loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family comes because he’s shrewd enough to have realized, through the decades, that that’s the best way ahead in the Congress Party. If there was ever anything to be gained by twisting a knife in their backs, he would have been the first to do that. But he picked loyalty as a strategy, and it was the right one—if anything, his shrewdness has been too transparent in his loyalty, which is why he will rise no more in politics.

Earlier: Mrs Gandhi, Throw Arjun A Bone.

Update: Reader Kapil Kelkar writes in to point out that Kesri was probably paraphrasing an earlier quote. According to this source, Field Marshall Templar once told Lord Mountbatten, “You are so crooked, Dickie, if you swallowed a nail you’d shit a Corkscrew.” Heh.