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Role of Pressure Groups and its Influence on Politics

  • Last Updated : 20 Oct, 2021

David Truman defined pressure groups as “that on the basis of one or more shared attitudes, makes certain claims upon other groups in the society for the establishment, maintenance, enhancement of forms of behavior that are implied by shared attitude.” Pressure groups and movements are the very essences of modern democracy; they are capable of influencing government decisions by their powerful representation. They can range from very small groups to a nexus of a million people. The pressure groups are not political by nature and they do not contest for political power. Individuals with shared interests come together to change the government’s outlook and alter government decisions.

The pressure groups are of two types:  

  1. Sectional: This type of pressure group includes self-interest organisations such as trade unions, business and farming groups.
  2. Promotional: The promotional interest groups focus on a particular cause and direct their activities towards fulfilling that cause, for instance, women’s rights, moral rights.

Representation in the pressure groups is at times from the influential section of the population, which may include doctors, lawyers, and prominent businessmen; as a result, the government has to take into consideration the views of this section of the population, whose support they cannot afford to lose. For instance, in the U.K. the ban imposed on smoking in public places in July 2007 was partially the result of lobbying by the British Medical Association. Sometimes pressure groups also consist of the outsider groups who mostly do not have any links with the ministers; as a result, the bigger interest groups with insider links are probable to be more successful in influencing the decisions of the government than the smaller ones. In India, the popular pressure groups are Business groups like the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Trade Unions like the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Professional Groups like the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Agrarian Groups like the All India Kisan Sabha, and Student Organisations like the Akhila Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).  

The pressure groups perform a major role in modifying the community as a whole by generating political awareness and making the electorate politically aware. They act as a bridge between the electorate and the government by making the government aware of the needs of the governed. The pressure groups give representation to the minority and make their voices heard. They even act as an advisor to the government as and when needed. The presence of the pressure groups makes a democracy rich and viable.

Besides, enhancing the quality of democracy, pressure groups at times are autocratic in nature; they represent the powerful minority who are financially affluent, thereby overshadowing the needs of the vast majority. The methods of resistance used by these groups (strikes, demonstrations, rallies) hinder the movement of the community as a whole. They also pressurize the government at times to implement policies benefitting their own interest, disregarding the interests of the vast majority, this is most commonly observed with regard to the trade unions and the business groups.

Some techniques generally used by the pressure groups to influence the government’s decisions:

  1. Electioneering: In this method, they place representatives favoring their issues in prominent public offices.
  2. Lobbying: This method employs convincing public officers to adopt and implement policies that will benefit their Interests.
  3. Propagandizing: This involves influencing public opinion in their favour and pressurising the government to accept their interests, as, in a democracy, public opinion is regarded as the sovereign.
  4. Resorting to legal actions by making appeals to the judiciary.
  5. Campaigning in favour of a particular candidate or opposing any candidate.
  6. Organising protests: The interest groups also organise protests, rallies, campaigns that indirectly exercise pressure on the government and oblige them to consider the demands of the people.
  7. Demonstrating generally occurs outside government offices, Parliament House, Jantar-Mantar, etc. or marching on the streets.
  8. Mass media: In recent years, pressure groups have also taken the help of mass media to present their case before the people and gather public opinion in their favour as public opinion is always an asset in a democracy.

All these methods are employed by protesters to influence the decision of the government in their favor. For instance, in 2011 social activist Anna Hazare sat on a 12-day hunger strike and he wanted a joint committee composed of members of the government and of civil society to make a draft tougher anti-corruption legislation. He was supported by retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi and social reformist Swami Agnivesh. The then Congress government, however, post the strike passed the Lokpal Bill, and in January 2014, the then President Pranab Mukherjee granted assent to the law.

In the year 2019, a mass protest was observed by the doctors in West Bengal over violence meted out towards the doctors. The doctors refused to attend to patients and boycotted their duties. The Indian Medical Association had also held a country-wide protest on June 18th, 2019. The movement received the support of doctors from all over the world. The protests were finally called off when the security of the doctors was guaranteed by Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, who asked the police to appoint nodal officers at all the government hospitals in the state for the security of the doctors. All their demands were agreed to in the presence of the media. She agreed on punishing the assaulters and also decided on the formation of a grievance redressal unit in all the state-run hospitals. The state government had also taken adequate measures and arrested the assailants.

In a recent instance, we have been witness to the ongoing farmer’s protests against the Farm Bills passed by the legislature which is regarded as the Kala Kanoon (Black Law) by the farmers. This protest has received widespread support from prominent agrarian pressure groups. Besides that, the movement has also been backed by the political power of the Shiv Sena and the Congress party. The movement has also been widely acclaimed by the student organizations of prominent Indian Universities who have resorted to demonstrations and rallies, thereby pressurizing the government to withdraw the law passed.

The pressure groups and the movements are essential tools in preserving public opinion in a democracy by ensuring adequate public representation, by acting as an effective check against the arbitrary decision-making of the government.

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