Pressure Groups are also named interest groups or vested groups. Generally, these two words are considered synonyms, but they are not. Interest groups are organised groups of people who seek to promote their specific interests. On the other hand, pressure groups are interest groups that exert pressure on the government or the decision-makers for the fulfilment of their own interests. So, interest groups are formally organised and interest-oriented, whereas pressure groups are strictly structured and pressure-focused.
Pressure groups are non-aligned groups and work as indirect but powerful groups to influence the decisions of the system. Pressure groups have limited and narrow-focused areas and issues (Universal egoism – Universal egoism is when people seek their own interests instead of society at large). The methods and styles of working are different in different political systems. There are controlled and influenced by five major factors:
- The pattern of political institutions
- The nature of the party system
- Political culture and attitude of leaders
- Nature of issues and problems
- Character and type of pressure groups
Here in this article, we will read about the need for pressure groups when we have political parties that also represent society and its demands. Further, we will classify the pressure groups based on the area of work. Later, we will also see the major roles and responsibilities of the pressure groups and their relevance in India.
Pressure Groups vs Political Parties
Although pressure groups and political parties are important in a democratic setup, they are different in nature. Major differences are:
1. A Pressure Group is a public body acting outside the domain of political parties, whereas political parties constitute government and perform within the system.
2. Pressure groups try to influence and pressurise the government to get their demands fulfilled without any direct intervention. In contrast, political parties act directly and are legally entitled to form the government to frame the country’s policies and decisions.
3. Pressure groups pressurise the executive and legislative to achieve their aims, whereas political parties attempt to bring coordination in the working of the executive and legislative bodies.
4. Pressure groups use both conventional and non-conventional methods to demonstrate their demands, whereas political parties only use constitutional means to execute their duties and functions.
Classification of Pressure Groups
In India, in a pluralistic society within the democratic framework number of pressure groups are performing in different sectors. They can be classified into five categories:
- Professional pressure groups (FICCI, CII, Trade unions, Farmers unions, student unions, etc.)
- Socio-cultural pressure groups (RSS, VHP, Jamat-e-Islami, Harijan Sevak Sangh, Tamil Sangh, etc.)
- Institutional pressure groups (Police welfare association, War widow association, etc.)
- Anomic pressure groups (Naxals, etc.)
- Ad hoc pressure groups (formed during disasters in various parts of the country, etc.)
Apart from these, some ideology-based pressure groups are performing in India, like Narmada Bachao Andolan, Chipko Movement, Women’s Rights Organisation, etc.
These all pressure groups, like in other countries, are expected to function as a bridge and source of communication between the mass and political systems. They are expected to sensitise people toward various social and economic issues. Their role and responsibilities can be classified under the following heads.
Roles and Responsibilities of Pressure Groups
Pressure groups have varied roles to play in the day-to-day activities of the society. The pressure groups must fulfil these responsibilities from time to time. Here are several scholars’ views on these groups’ roles and responsibilities.
1. Functional Representation
Pressure groups provide a mouthpiece for the groups that are not adequately represented through the electoral process or by political parties. Pressure groups are expected to articulate societal views and raise their demand generally upheld in each political system.
2. Political Activities and Participation
Pressure groups have become increasingly important agents in the political system. Pressure groups try to exert pressure precisely by mobilising and monitoring popular support through activities such as public petitions, marches and demonstrations, posters and leaflets, professional lobbies, etc. These all are more or less like a form of political protest.
3. As Educators and Mentors
Pressure groups are part of civil society and are expected to make society democratically civilised. These pressure groups, through the process of communication, try to make people informed and empowered. They are expected to make them civilised and cultured in their approach. Pressure groups played a role in educating citizens about specific issues and enhancing democratic participation, pluralism, and diversity. Pressure groups can be an important source of specialist information that can cultivate innovative ideas and values in their respective areas of society to make society more balanced in its rights and responsibilities.
4. Policy Formulation and Implementation
Although pressure groups are not policymakers, they are a vital source of information and expertise for an overloaded legislature and civil service. The government regularly consults them in the process of policy formulation, and pressure groups try to get a policy in their favour. At the implementation stage, as for the merit of the policy, pressure groups are expected to help the government mobilise resources (physical, financial, human, et al.) to make implementation more effective by reducing resistance against the policy.
Pressure Groups and Democracy
Pressure groups are performing their role in all areas to strengthen the root of democracy by contributing positively and constructively in their own chosen field. Their indirect presence makes democracy vibrant and the democratic system alert.
Unfortunately, in India, pressure groups are not able to perform as per the expectation because of the following reasons:
- Pressure groups are suffering from outside leadership
- Pressure groups use unconstitutional methods
- Pressure groups are based on caste, region, religion, etc.
- Pressure groups have a direct link with political parties
Despite all these weaknesses, the existence of pressure groups is essential for a democratic setup. They have the potential to promote national interest. They can supplement electoral democracy and ensure healthy competition and debate. They can be social change agents without indulging themselves in politics. They can make a nation politically alive and ensure political culture is pure. So, the presence of genuine pressure groups is the demand of democratic countries like India.