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Weekend Bites: Confidence motion, corporation action, and a cage fight

In which we munch over the week's platter of news and views

PM Modi, inauguration of the redeveloped International Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre (IECC) complex at Pragati Maidan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledges the crowd at the inauguration of the redeveloped International Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre (IECC) complex at Pragati Maidan (PTI Photo)

Suveen Sinha New Delhi
On August 19, 1963, Acharya J B Kripalani moved a no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha. The Congress government was on a weak footing following the humbling at the hands of the Chinese the previous year, but the motion was defeated when put to vote, with 347 members opposing it and 62 supporting.
 
It did, however, present arguably the stiffest political challenge to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru after 16 years in office. It also engendered four days of vibrant debate. This was the first no-confidence motion in the history of India’s Parliament democracy.
 
In a week packed with corporate action, let’s first look at politics.
 
Story of the week
 
A no-confidence motion is a legislative resolution introduced in the Lok Sabha that allows the Opposition to challenge the government's majority and ability to govern. It must be in writing, needs the support of at least 50 Lok Sabha members, and must be signed by all the members moving it.
 
There have been 27 no-confidence motions in India so far; the 28th is on the anvil.
 
On Wednesday, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla admitted a no-confidence motion moved by the Opposition alliance, INDIA, against the Narendra Modi government. The Speaker has to allot a day, or days, for taking up the motion within 10 days of accepting it.
 
Leaders of INDIA said the PM’s unwillingness to address Parliament on the ethnic unrest in Manipur forced them to move the motion, expressing “want of confidence in the Council of Ministers”. Though the rule does not explicitly say the Prime Minister has to reply to the discussion, Trinamool Congress’ Saugata Roy argued he must do so since he led the ministerial council.
 
This will be the first no-confidence motion in the current tenure of the Modi-led NDA government. In its previous term, the Telugu Desam Party’s Srinivas Kesineni had moved a no-confidence motion on 30 July 2018, which was defeated.
 
All the 27 previous no-confidence motions were either defeated or remained inconclusive, according to data from PRS Legislative Research, a think tank. In 1979, a no-confidence motion moved against the Morarji Desai government led to his resignation, although the debate remained inconclusive and there was no voting.
 
On at least three occasions, governments have fallen during vote on a "motion of confidence", which is a motion brought by the government to prove its strength: The V P Singh government in 1990, the H D Deve Gowda government in 1997, and the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1999.
 
The symbolic importance of the newest motion cannot be denied, and it will provide the Opposition parties a platform to have their say in Parliament, but it may meet the same fate as the previous 27.
 
The NDA has a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha, with the YSR Congress Party, not aligned to either of the alliances, announcing its support to the government. The government is, therefore, likely to get at least 357 votes against the motion, significantly more than the halfway mark of 272.
 
On Wednesday itself, the day the no-confidence motion was admitted, Prime Minister Modi said India would be among the top three economies in the world in his third term.
 
Let’s now recap the torrent of corporate developments this week.
 
In other news…
 
Private equity majors Blackstone and Baring have initiated talks with the Hamied family, the promoters of pharmaceutical giant Cipla, to acquire up to 20 per cent in the company. The family owns 33.47 per cent and may become minority owner if the talks succeed.
 
Interest expenses are now the fastest-growing cost head for India Inc and are weighing down corporate earnings despite a softening of raw material and energy costs in the recent quarters.
 
Mahindra & Mahindra picked up a 3.53 per cent stake in private sector lender RBL Bank for Rs 417 crore. “We may consider further investment…. However, in no circumstance will it exceed 9.9 per cent,” M&M said in an exchange notification.
 
BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, joined forces with Mukesh Ambani-led Jio Financial Services for a foray into asset management in India.
 
The National Company Law Tribunal said Go First could fly the aircraft in its possession if they were still registered with the civil aviation regulator.
 
Engineering conglomerate Larsen & Toubro announced a share buyback of up to Rs 10,000 crore. It also reported a 46.5 per cent rise in net profit for the June quarter, topping the estimates on the back of improved operational performance and higher other income. L&T’s order book crossed the Rs 4 trillion mark for the first time.
 
The board of ITC gave in-principle approval to the demerger of its hotel business into a new entity. This comes nearly two decades after the hotel business was brought under the fold of the conglomerate. The new entity will be listed separately.
 
Tech that: Word from the world of technology and start-ups
 
Elon Musk-owned Twitter launched its new logo, X, which replaced the blue bird as part of a wider rebranding.
 
Companies that have changed their logos in the past have had to deal with criticism and confusion. Will Twitter’s rebranding work?
 
Watch it: From The Morning Show
 
A record 74 million people filed income-tax returns for the assessment year 2022-23. Around 70 per cent reported no tax liability. Why do so few Indians pay income tax?
 
What is Suveen obsessing over?
 
In January 2014, two economists at the University of Wisconsin in the United States released a research paper titled, ‘Beauty is Wealth: CEO Appearance and Shareholder Value’, in which they rated the attractiveness of 677 CEOs based on their facial geometry. The paper said shareholders perceived more attractive CEOs to be more valuable.
 
“We find a positive and significant relation between CEO attractiveness and acquirer returns around merger announcement dates, after controlling for a number of additional CEO characteristics, including gender, age, tenure, overconfidence, education, as well as CEO photo characteristics, such as whether the CEO wears glasses and/or smiles in the photo.”
 
There has been other research saying good looks make CEOs appear more competent and enable them to extract better deals.
 
Most of us would agree looks matter, in business as much as in life. Not just in the way we are born, but also in the way we groom ourselves, dress, and present ourselves through speech and manners.
 
Yet, there is more to life and business than appearances. For proof, look no further than ‘A Tale of Two Brothers’. Both had their grooming in business under their father. Both, at one point, owned almost equal business empires. One was fit, flamboyant, and debonair; the other more studied, understated, and focused on executing large projects. You know the rest of the story.
 
Yet, two of the world’s most famous CEOs are determined to outdo each other in who is more macho. We are speaking of Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk of Tesla, Twitter, and SpaceX. As of now, the salvos are limited to social media posts, but – who knows – they might soon be in a cage fight organised by the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
 
This is such heady stuff I ended up writing a column asking Why must Mark and Musk be so macho.
 
This is Suveen signing off. Please send tips, comments, news, or views about anything from Parliament debates to macho CEOs to suveen.sinha@bsmail.in.
 
(Suveen Sinha is Chief Content Editor at Business Standard)

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First Published: Jul 29 2023 | 7:00 AM IST

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