Pressure Groups

  • Definition of Pressure groups

     

    Pressure groups are forms of organisations, which exert pressure on the political or administrative system of a country to extract benefits out of it and to advance their own interests. The term ‘pressure group’ refers to any interest group whose members because of their shared common attributes make claims on the other groups and on the political process. Caste based pressure groups arise from a particular caste and influence government policies in favour of their social and political demands.

     There is no explicit provision in the Constitution regarding PG (Pressure Group), yet they exist because of Article 19, which gives citizens the right to form associations and unions.

  • Types of Pressure groups

     

    • Economic association: such as chambers of commerce, trade unions.
    • Professional association: such as that of architects, doctors, lawyers.
    • Public interest group (PIG): such as friends of environment who aim to benefit people beyond their membership.
    • Special interest group (SIG): a subgroup formed within the framework of a main group to focus on a very narrow area of interest.

  • Functions of Pressure groups
    • Representation: Pressure groups provide a mouthpiece for groups and interests that are not adequately represented through the electoral process or by political parties.
    • Political participation: Pressure groups have become an increasingly important agent of political participation. Of UK citizens, 40-50 per cent belong to at least one voluntary association. Interest groups may attempt to influence elections in order to get people who support their issues elected. Techniques include giving money to candidates, endorsing candidates, etc., are performed.
    • Lobbying government: It include contacting members of parliament, ministers and bureaucrats to disseminate information about the positive or adverse effects of proposed legislation. Ex: FICCI lobby Government to bring tax reforms which suit industry.
    • Educating public: Interest groups work hard to educate the public at large, government officials, their own members, and potential interest group members. They use sources like communication medium which include TV advertisements, sponsored newspaper articles, social media, etc.
    • Mobilising public: The interest groups not only create public opinion but sometimes draw the general masses into agitational and protest politics. If they want to set an industry in a particular area, they create the necessary climate and make the people of the area demand for the industry.
    • Policy formulation and implementation: In particular, pressure groups are a vital source of information and advice to governments. Many groups are therefore regularly consulted in the process of policy formulation, with government policy increasingly being developed through policy networks. An example of such group is Observor Research Foundation, which works on policy issues primarily related to foreign affairs.
  • Pressure groups may use a variety of methods to pursue their requirements. These include:
    • lobbying state members and the Parliament via petitions, letters and deputations;
    • consulting with ministers or senior public servants;
    • hiring professional lobbyists;
    • taking legal action through injunctions or appeals to higher courts;
    • campaigning for, or opposing, certain candidates at elections;
    • demonstrating outside Parliament and government offices or marching in the streets;
    • using the industrial muscle of strikes for political purposes.

  • Pressure Groups influence the political system:

     

    • Pressure groups vary in size and organizational structure, which may not necessarily represent the amount of influence exerted upon a government’s policies. Pressure groups are primarily a consequence of inadequacies of the political parties.
    • It is obvious that trade unions, business organizations and professional associations can exert considerable pressure upon governments
    • Pressure groups shores up the accountability of the government and serve as a vital check on government actions and inaction. It helps in cultivating a responsive and pro-active government. For instance, in the State of Rajasthan, a people’s organization known as Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghthan (MKSS), could succeed in making the people question and demand information on money spent on roads; loans to poor and so on. This made the basis for the right to information movement.
    • Pressure groups are a vital link between the government and the governed. They keep governments more responsive to the wishes of the community, especially in between elections.
    • Pressure groups are able to express the views of minority groups in the community who might not otherwise receive a hearing. For example, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) movement   has   generated consciousness amongst the people in questioning the actions of government regarding dam construction and its repercussions.
    • Pressure groups are able to use their expertise to provide the government with important information. It is also applicable to issues such as Indigenous reconciliation.
    • Pressure groups offer an alternative source of advice to the government, separate from that coming from the Public Service. E.g.: Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan – Criminalization of Triple Talaq bill
    • Pressure groups generally promote opportunities for political participation for citizens, without the need to join a political party. Moreover, they allow for the democratic rights of freedom of speech, assembly and association to be upheld.
  • Concerns related to Pressure groups in India:

     

    • Narrow selfish interests: Unlike the pressure groups in the developed countries of the West, where these are invariably organised to safeguard economic, social, cultural interests, etc. in India these groups are organised around religious, regional and ethnic issues.
    • Misuse of power: Instead of the pressure groups exerting influence on political process, they become tools and implements to subserve political interests.
    • Instability: Most pressure groups do not have autonomous existence; they are unstable and lack commitment, their loyalties shift with political situations which threatens general welfare. Ex: Naxalite movement started in 1967 in West Bengal.
    • Propagating extremism: Pressure groups can allow too much influence over the government from unelected extremist minority groups, which in turn could lead to unpopular consequences.
    • Political interest: Instead of the pressure groups exerting influence on political process, they become tools and implements to serve political interest.
    • Lack of accountability: Regardless of which groups are most powerful, pressure group influence is exerted in a way that is not subject to scrutiny and public accountability. Pressure groups usually exert influence behind closed doors.
    • The leadership of these groups tends to lack democratic organisation. Therefore, they may not actually present a true of picture of public opinion, but instead may demonstrate the desires of the leader who articulate the groups policy interests to government.
  • Pressure Group Vs Political Party
    BASIS FOR COMPARISONPRESSURE GROUPPOLITICAL PARTY
    MeaningPressure Group, refers to the interest group that attempts to influence the government policy, for a definite objective.Political Party alludes to an organization of people that focuses on the acquisition and retention of power through collective efforts.
    Aims atExerting influenceAcquiring power
    EntityIt is informal, conceited and unrecognized entity.It is formal, open and a recognized entity.
    MembershipOnly persons of similar set of values, beliefs and status can join pressure group.People with similar political ideology can become members.
    ElectionsThey do not contest elections; they only support political parties.They contest elections and participate in the campaign.
    AccountabilityThey are not accountable to people.They are accountable to people.

 

Conclusion:

In a democratic nation like India, Pressure groups provide an informal means to meet and serve needs of different classes and sections of society. However, pursuit of illogical and unnecessary demands should not override affirmative action to ensure a vibrant and inclusive polity.

 

Practise Question:

What is a pressure group? Analyse their role in development

 Critically examine the view that pressure groups are a threat to democracy.

 How do Pressure Groups Influence Politics in India? Discuss their roles. (250 words)