(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains GS Online Coaching : Paper 2 - "Pressure Groups And Formal/Informal Associations And Their Role In The Polity"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains GS Online Coaching Programme

Subject: General Studies (Paper 2 - Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

Topic: Pressure Groups And Formal/Informal Associations And Their Role In The Polity


Politics Parties And Pressure/Interest Groups

You might have seen demonstrations, dharnas, and such like activities in your locality, city or State by students, farmers, workers, etc. Some of these activities, you might have observed, are carried by organized groups like Students Union, Farmers Union, Trade Union, Business Association, Teachers’ Associations, etc. In general, these groups try to press upon the government for formulation of policies or enactment of laws according to their interests. Yet they themselves do not contest elections. Therefore, you will agree that they are not political parties. Then what are these? In any country, especially a democratic one, there are large number of organized groups which, directly or indirectly influence politics and government. The members of such organized groups are united in respect of some specific interests that they tend to advance. For example, the workers of a factory are organized in what is called the trade union to promote their interests. Similarly, there are other organized groups. These are called pressure groups or interest groups.  

Pressure groups and Interest groups

INTUC is an organization that can be described both as a pressure group and an interest group. Generally, interest groups and pressure groups are considered synonyms, but they are actually not. Interest groups are organized groups of people which seek to promote their specific interests. Their characteristics are: (a) they are well organized, (b) they have certain common interests, (c) the interest that unites the members is specific and particular, (d) the members of such organized groups seek to attain, protect and  promote their interests for which they are united. A pressure group, on the other hand, is an interest group which exerts pressure on the government or the decision-makers for the fulfillment of their interests. It is important to make a distinction between an interest group and a pressure group. Interest groups may exist without even exerting pressure on the government or the decision-makers. A group that does not exert pressure to influence or pressurize the authorities in order to achieve the desired objects, is not called a pressure group. An interest group that exerts pressure on the government to achieve its goals is called a pressure group. All pressure groups are interest groups while all interest groups may not be pressure groups.    Pressure Groups: Role and Techniques In the democratic functioning of a polity, pressure groups play a vital role. They seek to promote, discuss, debate and mobilize public opinion on major public issues. In this process, they educate people and widen their vision, enhance theirdemocratic participation and raise and articulate various issues. These groups try to bring changes in public policy.  To achieve their objectives and goals, the pressure groups employ various techniques and methods. These include appeals, petitions, demonstrations, picketing, lobbying, and processions. They also write in the media, distribute pamphlets, issue press releases, organize discussions and debates, put up posters and chant slogans. They may carry out satyagraha, that is, a non-violent protest. At times, pressure groups resort to strikes in order to pressurize the legislators, the executive officials, the decision makers. Often, they resort to boycott.   Following are some of the roles played by Pressure Groups in Indian Political System:

1. They act as a link and source of communication between the masses and the political parties.
2. They produce very effective leadership and also as a training platform for future political leaders.
3. They sensitize the public towards various socio economic issues thereby educating them politically.
4. Pressure groups tries to introduce their chosen person into legislature. Further, they may exert to influence on Legislature to enact certain law.
5. Pressure group tries to fill high executive posts with men of their own choice and henceforth influences policy implementation process.
6. Several Tribal activist groups have spearheading the movements against the exploitation of tribal population and forced Govt. to pass pro-tribal forest policies and Forest Act.

Political Parties and Pressure Groups

Both of them play an important role in a democracy. Therefore, their relationship is markedly close and clear. For example, the trade unions help their respective political parties by providing them workers during elections. On the other, it is the political parties which advocate legislation in respect of the interests of the workers. Do you know that the National Students Union of India (NSUI) provides future leadership to the Congress while the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) does so for the Bharatiya Janata Party? While some pressure groups are linked to particular political parties, there are many which have no linkage to any political party. It is important to understand that the pressure groups are different from political parties.

The distinction between the two can be stated as under:

  • Pressure groups are not primarily political in nature. For example, although Rashtriya Swayamak Sangh (RSS) supports the Bharatiya Janata Party, it is, by and large, a cultural organization. The political parties are basically political.

  • Pressure groups do not seek direct power; they only influence those who are in power for moulding decisions in their favour. The political parties seek power to form the government.

  • Pressure groups do not contest elections; they only support political parties of their choice. Political parties nominate candidates, contest elections, and participate in election campaigns.

  • Pressure groups do not necessarily have political ideologies. Political parties are always wedded to their ideologies. For example, the Congress party is wedded to the ideologies of socialism, secularism and democracy; the Communists advocate the interests of workers, peasants and other weaker sections.

  • The interests of the pressure groups are usually specific and particular, whereas the political parties have policies and programmes with national and international ramifications. 

Media as pressure group

Mass media plays vital role in reveling the various happening of politics and life of common people all around. In countries such as India the mass media –the radio, TV, the cinema and the press are very powerful means of social change and act as pressure group for the interest of common people and reveals the all deeds of the government. Mass media in its full swing of working can openly criticize the government and have right to place their view on certain situation. Further mass media help to generate a common platform which tries to focus on core issues of the society and its need. So media role is as much important in influencing activities of the political parties as that of other pressure group working to strive certain specific goals. In-fact in this contemporary world media acts as agent of change focusing on social development of society and hence media role of pressurizing government given it nature of pressure group which is of vital importance.

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