- A pressure group is a group of people who are organised actively for promoting and defending their common interest. It is called so, as it attempts to bring a change in public policy by exerting pressure on the government. It acts as a liaison between the government and its members.
- The pressure groups are also called interest groups or vested groups. They are different from the political parties, as they neither contest elections nor try to capture political power.
- They are concerned with specific programmes and issues and their activities are confined to the protection and promotion of the interests of their members by influencing the government.
- The pressure groups influence the policy-making and policy implementation in the government through legal and legitimate methods like lobbying, correspondence, publicity, propagandising, petitioning, public debating, maintaining contacts with their legislators and so forth.
Role/Functions of Pressure Groups:
- Pressure groups are agents of political socialisation in so far as they influence the orientations of the people towards the political process. They play an important role in the transmission of cultural values and in influencing the behaviour of the people in politics. They are the factors of the sociological and psychological environment of the political system.
- Through participation in the group activities and by influencing the nature of the political process the members of various groups get engaged in political participation. Similarly, these groups play a vital role as two-way communication links between the people and the government.
- The training that the members of the groups undergo as its office bearers or active members enables and encourages them to take up political roles. It is in this way that pressure groups perform the function of political recruitment.
- Pressure groups, by nature, are non-partisan groups. These indirectly play a crucial role in elections. When the political parties are selecting their candidates, these groups try to influence the choice. They try for the inclusion of favorable provisions in the election manifestoes of political parties. After elections, the pressure groups try to influence the choice of ministers from amongst the elected members.
- In a political system, there is present a continuous process of interactions between political parties and pressure groups. The latter are always at work to influence the policies and activities of a political party (usually the majority party) or parties in such a way as can help them to secure their interests.
- Pressure groups play a vital role in the legislative process, not only as important structures of interest articulation but also as active agencies engaged in lobbying with the legislators for securing desired laws or amendments in laws and policies of the government.
- Pressure Groups are actively involved with the process of administration. The important role played by the organized associations, unions, and trade unions of the civil servants is a well-known fact. Civil Servants are the real personnel behind the political executive, who manage the day-to-day administration and policies of the government.
Techniques Used By Pressure Groups
Pressure groups resort to three different techniques in securing their purposes.
- Electioneering: Placing in public office persons who are favourably disposed towards the interests the concerned pressure group seeks to promote.
- Lobbying: Persuading public officers, whether they are initially favourably disposed toward them or not, to adopt and enforce the policies that they think will prove most beneficial to their interests.
- Propagandizing: Influencing public opinion and thereby gaining an indirect influence over government, since the government in a democracy is substantially affected by public opinion.
Types of Pressure Groups
- Institutional Interest Groups: These groups are formally organised which consist of professionally employed persons. They are a part of government machinery and try to exert their influence.These groups include political parties, legislatures, armies, bureaucracies, etc. Whenever such an association raises protest it does so by constitutional means and in accordance with the rules and regulations.
- Example: IAS Association, IPS Association, State civil services association, etc.
- Associational Interest Groups : These are organised specialised groups formed for interest articulation, but to pursue limited goals. These include trade unions, organisations of businessmen and industrialists and civic groups.
- Some examples of Associational Interest Groups in India are Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Indian Chamber of Commerce, Trade Unions such as AITUC (All India Trade Union Congress), Teachers Associations, Students Associations such as National Students Union of India (NSUI) etc.
- Anomic Interest Groups: By anomic pressure groups we mean more or less a spontaneous breakthrough into the political system from the society such as riots, demonstrations, assassinations and the like.
- Non-Associational Interest Groups: These are the kinship and lineage groups and ethnic, regional, status and class groups that articulate interests on the basis of individuals, family and religious heads. These groups have informal structure. These include caste groups, language groups, etc.
Pressure Groups in India
- Business Groups – Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Federation of All India Foodgrain Dealers Association (FAIFDA), etc
- Trade Unions – All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS)
- Professional Groups – Indian Medical Association (IMA), Bar Council of India (BCI), All India Federation of University and College Teachers (AIFUCT)
- Agrarian Groups– All India Kisan Sabha, Bharatiya Kisan Union, etc
- Student’s Organisations– Akhila Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), All India Students Federation (AISF), National Students Union of India (NSUI)
- Religious Groups – Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Jamaat-e-Islami, etc.
- Caste Groups – Harijan Sevak Sangh, Nadar Caste Association, etc
- Linguistic Groups – Tamil Sangh, Andhra Maha Sabha, etc
- Tribal Groups – National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), Tribal National Volunteers (TNU) in Tripura, United Mizo federal org, Tribal League of Assam, etc.
- Ideology based Groups – Narmada Bachao Andolan, Chipko Movement, Women’s Rights Organisation, India Against Corruption etc.
- Anomic Groups – Naxalite Groups, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), Dal Khalsa, etc.
Issues related to pressure groups:
- Sometimes they have biased interests limited to few members. Most PGs except business groups & big community groups do not have autonomous existence.
- They are unstable and lack commitment, their loyalties shift with political situations which threatens general welfare.
- They many a times resort to un-constitutional means like violence. Naxalite movement started in 1967 in West Bengal is one such example. And since pressure groups are not elected, it is not fair that they decide crucial policy decisions in a democracy.
- In India, organised groups largely influence the administrative process rather than the formulation of policy. This is dangerous as a gap is created between policy formulation and implementation.
- Many a time factors of caste and religion eclipse the socioeconomic interests. The result is that instead of serving a useful purpose in the political administrative process, they are reduced to work for narrow selfish interests.
- Moreover, many of the groups have a very short life because of the lack of resources. This explains the reason for the mushroom growth of pressure groups as well as their withering away as it becomes difficult to sustain the interest of the persons, initially attracted to form these pressure groups.