General Studies IIConstitution

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.
  • In the present contest these forms of organisations are broadly referred to as Civil Society Organisations (CSO).
  • They pursue their interests by organising themselves and by influencing the governmental policies.
  • Their aim is to see that laws or government’s actions are favourable to their interests.
  • Pressure groups have been in existence in different forms ever since governmental machinery became capable of delivering certain benefits to either individuals or groups.
  • They did take more concrete form in the wake of industrial revolution and the rise of market oriented economies.
  • The emergence of trusts and monopolies and the struggle over tariffs led to the formation of pressure groups.
  • With the advancement of technology and agricultural skills new problems, desires and needs arose and therefore new groups and organisations came into being to advance their common interests.
  • State assumed various welfare functions in addition to its earlier regulatory activities.
  • All this entrusted considerable power and discretion in the hands of state apparatus and the need to exert more pressure on the State became stronger.
  • The dominant sections of the society needed the help of the State in promotion of the economic activities and the weak and the deprived needed its help for meeting their basic requirements.
  • To articulate their interests, and exert pressure on the State apparatus these groups gained prominence.
  • Pressure groups in mobilising and organising masses have widened the base of political participation as well as creating a responsive political and administrative system.
  • They help in social integration, political articulation and act as catalysts for change. Finer has characterised pressure groups as ‘anonymous empire’. Richard D. Lambert views it as unofficial government.
  • These groups influence both public policy as well as administration.
  • They also contribute towards determination of political structure of society and the form of government.
  • Any social group which seeks to influence the, behaviour of any political officer, both administrative as well as legislative, without attempting to gain formal control of the government can be called a pressure group.

What is the difference between a pressure group and a political party?

  • Pressure group is not a formal organisation, whereas political parties are formal organisations recognized by the Election Commission of India.
  • Pressure groups do not aim to directly share or control political power like political parties.
  • To make any changes in policy decisions, pressure groups apply pressure on Government through various means like organising mass protests, meetings, filing petitions, carrying out information campaigns, influencing through media etc. The pressure is basically external in nature, whereas political parties in the opposition, try to bring changes in policies of Government through various legislative means, like voting against a bill brought in by the Government either in Parliament or state legislative assemblies.
  • Pressure groups need not have accountability to its people, whereas political parties are accountable, if not, they will be voted out of power by the electorate in the elections.
  • Pressure groups are guided by issues which affect a certain group of people, for example, Narmada bachao Andolan was working against construction of a dam on Narmada river which later on became a movement against dams; whereas political parties focus on almost all the matters that concern the state or nation. Manifestos of national level political parties will cover everything from international relations, defence, science and technology, political equality, government schemes for upliftment of downtrodden people, poor people, agriculture, economy of the nation etc.

Pressure groups and Interest groups 

You can see below the illustration depicting a rally by the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC). 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 who seek to promote their specific interests. Their characteristics are: 

  1. they are well-organized,
  2. they have certain common interests,
  3. the interest that unites the members is specific and particular, 
  4. 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 that 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. The following differences between the two groups are significant:

Interest GroupPressure Group
Formally organisedStrictly structured
Interest orientedPressure focussed
May or may not influence the policies of the governmentMust influence the policies of the government
Softer in outlookHarsher in attitude
More or less protectiveProtective and promotive

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.

Characteristics of Pressure Groups

  • Based on Certain Interests: Each pressure group organises itself keeping in view certain interests and thus tries to adopt the structure of power in the political systems.
  • Use of Modern as well as Traditional Means: They adopt techniques like financing of political parties, sponsoring their close candidates at the time of elections and keeping the bureaucracy also satisfied. Their traditional means include exploitation of caste, creed and religious feelings to promote their interests.
  • Resulting Out of Increasing Pressure and Demands on Resources: Scarcity of resources, claims and counterclaims on the resources from different and competing sections of the society leads to the rise of pressure groups.
  • Inadequacies of Political Parties: Pressure groups are primarily a consequence of inadequacies of the political parties.
  • Represent Changing Consciousness: For instance the increase in the food production or industrial goods does bring a change in the way individuals and groups look at the world. The stagnation in production leads to fatalism but increase in production leads to demands, protests and formation of new pressure groups.

Different Types of Pressure Groups in India

A large number of PGs exist in India but unfortunately, they are not developed as compared to the Western Countries like England, France, and the USA. It can be classified into the following categories. Let’s explain types, what type of pressure group is to stop the war, which type of associations are they, examples of pressure groups, interest groups in India, etc.

First Trade Union in India – All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) was founded in 1920 with Lala Lajpat Rai as its first president. Upto 1945, Congressmen, Socialists and Communists worked in the AITUC which was the central trade union organisation of workers of India.

v Business Groups

The Business group is one of the most important, influential, and organized PGs in India. Examples of business groups- Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Associated Chamber of Commerce (ASSOCHAM) – major constituents are the Bengal Chamber of Commerce Calcutta and Central commercial organization of Delhi.

v Trade Unions

Trade unions cater to the demand of workers and labourers of the industries. Alternatively, they are also known as labour groups. In India, different trade unions represent different political parties. Examples- The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), All India Trade Union Congress (Communist Party of India)

v Agrarian Groups

They represent the farmer community of India and work for their well-being. Example- Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, Hind Kisan Panchayat (control of socialist).

v Professional Association

Such associations raise the concern of working professionally in India ranging from lawyers and doctors, journalists, and teachers. Examples include the Association of Engineers, Bar Council of India (BCI), and Dental Council of India.

v Student Organisations

There are various organizations present to represent the causes and grievances of students in India. Examples are the National Students Union of India (Congress), All Assam Students Union (Asom Gan Parishad), Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (Aam Admi Party).

v Religious Organisations

Organizations based on religion have come to play an important role in Indian Politics. They represent the narrow perspective and are often termed as anti-secular. Examples of these organizations are Rashtriya Swyam Sevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Jamaat-e-Islami, Brahmo Samaj.

v Caste Groups

Caste has been one of the salient features of Indian Society. However, it has always been one of the ideologies discouraging the aspiration of the people and the constitution of India. The caste factor is always prevalent in elections in India. Examples of caste groups are Marwari Association, Harijan Sewak Sangh.

v Tribal Organisation

Tribal in India are prominent in Central India and North East India and are also active in the Central Indian Tribal belt and in northeast India. These organizations include the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, All-India Jharkhand, and Tribal Sangh of Assam

v Linguistic Groups

There are 22 scheduled languages in India. However, there have been many groups and movements working for the welfare of languages in India. For example- Hindi Sahitya Sammelan and Tamil Sangh, etc.

v Ideology Based Group

Ideology based groups have been recently formed. Some examples of these groups include Environment Protection Groups like Narmada Bachao Andolan and Chipko movement, Democratic rights organization, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Woman rights organization, Civil liberties associations.

v Anomic Groups

Anomic pressure groups refer to those spontaneous groups which are formed with a collective response through riots, demonstrations, assassinations, etc. The Indian government and bureaucratic elite, overwhelmed by the problem of economic development and scarcity of resources available to them, inevitably acquires a technocratic and anti-political frame of mind, particularistic demands of whatever kinds are denied legitimacy.

As a consequence, PGs are alienated from the political system. Some of the anomic PGs are- Naxalite groups, United Liberation Front of Assam, All Assam Students Union, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front.

Functions of Pressure Groups

The pressure group has the following functions:

  • They are a part of the administrative system.
  • They have an impact on legislation.
  • They play a crucial part in the democratic process.
  • They make demand and need visible to policymakers and decision-makers.
  • They are also involved in the administration of justice.
  • Helpful in breaking the cycle of societal stagnation

  • Part of the Administrative System
  • PGs are involved in administrative processes on a regular basis. These organisations employ lobbying techniques to achieve their objectives in public policy administration.
  • Have a Say in the Legislative Process
  • They are a proactive agency that engages in lobbying with the legislature. They assist political parties in the preparation of manifestos.

  • Play an Important Part in the Democratic Process
  • In a democracy, political parties play an essential role. These organisations aid in the removal of the government’s monopolies, the protection of the interests of various groups, and the attainment of social equality. As a result, the country will become more democratic.
    • They serve as a vital intermediary institutions between government and society;
    • They assist in the dispersal of political power;
    • They provide important counterweights to balance the concentration of power.
  • Bring Policymakers’ Attention to the Demands and Needs
  • PGs are a key source for achieving social equality because they draw policy makers’ or decision-makers attention to the problems that particular populations face. They utilise a variety of tactics, including hartals and bandhs, to attract the government’s attention to them. These pressure organisations have been known to utilise aggressive tactics that are damaging to society.

  • Serve a Vital Part in the Administration of Justice

These organisations also play an essential part in the administration of justice. They have the right to go to court if they believe their interest or even need is not being met, to seek redress for complaints, and to resolve a dispute.

  • Assist You Get Out of a Rut in Your Social Life

These groups, on occasion, take their group’s demands and bring them into the light. This aids in the alleviation of societal stagnation. This aids social cohesiveness and political stability as well.

  • Pressure groups play a leading role in the formulation of public opinion. Each pressure group is continuously engaged in evaluating all such laws, rules, decisions and policies which have a direct or indirect bearing on the interests it represents. It always places the pros and cons not only before its members but also before the general public for eliciting popular support as well as for catching the attention of the government.
  • They try to gain public support and sympathy for their goals and their activity by carrying out information campaigns, organising meetings, file petitions, etc. Most of these groups try to influence the media into giving attention to these issues.
  • Pressure groups help in improving the quality of government. Consultation with affected groups is the rational way to make decisions in a free society. It makes government more efficient by enhancing the quality of the decision making process – the information and advice provided by these groups helps to improve the quality of government policy and legislation.
  • Pressure groups enable new concerns and issues to reach the political agenda, thereby facilitating social progress and preventing social stagnation. For example, the women’s and environmentalist movements.
  • Pressure groups increase social cohesion and political stability by providing a ‘safety-valve’ outlet for individual and collective grievances and demands.
  • Pressure groups complement the work of opposition political parties by exposing the bad policies and wrongdoings of the government. Pressure groups thereby improve the accountability of decision makers to electorates.
  • Pressure groups help to educate people, compile data and provide specific information to policy makers, thus they work as an informal source of information. Active constructive participation of numerous groups in polity helps to reconcile general interest with individual group interests.


Both India and Western countries are democracies. But within western countries there are differences between Presidential and Parliamentary forms of government. India though a Parliamentary democracy differs from such countries of the West in terms of developmental levels. Therefore there are some differences in the role of pressure groups.

Firstly, the American pressure groups are regarded as the fourth organ of the government but the Indian pressure groups are not yet able to play such signigicant role in politics.

Secondly, in India and Great Britain the cabinet and civil service are the main targets of pressure groups for lobbying purposes rather than the parliament. However, the targets of American pressure groups are the Congress and its committees rather than the President for lobbying purposes.

Thirdly, Indian pressure groups based on caste, religion, region, etc. are more powerful than the modern groups like Business organisations.

Fourthly,  a significant feature of’ American pressure groups is that in the USA pressure groups take interest in foreign policy issues while in India pressure groups do not seem to have interest in foreign policy matters. Comparatively, the Indian pressure groups are concerned more with domestic policy issues and problems, and less with foreign policy matters.

However in general, despite the difference, democratic politics presupposes the crucial role of pressure group for serving the interests of different sections of society

Growing influence of Pressure Groups

Positive aspect :  For a successful democracy it is important to generate a public opinion, so that policy in question may be supported or condemned. PGs help to educate people, compile data and provide specific information to policy makers, thus they work as an informal source of information. Active constructive participation of numerous groups in polity helps to reconcile general interest with individual group interests.

Negative aspect :  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.

Shortcomings of Pressure Groups

  • 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. 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.
  • 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. They many a times resort to unconstitutional means like violence. Naxalite movement started in 1967 in West Bengal is one such example.
  • 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.

Critical Evaluation of Pressure Groups in India:

  • Pressure groups in India, by and large, have no political commitment. They are weak and do not openly extend their support to the political party other than the one which is in power.
  • They hesitate to displease authorities and the government. It is hoped that these groups will always be non-violent and follow secular policies.
  • These groups try to strengthen only such parties, which they feel are likely to come to power, if already not in authority. For them their own interests are supreme and paramount and when they feel that these clash with those of the others, in order to preserve their interests, they go to the other extreme end.
  • Pressure groups in India have not been much success because of several reasons.
  • The main reason for this is that they have failed to organise themselves as a second body. They have no well-developed infrastructure which can help in regularly and vigorously pursuing their interests.
  • Single party dominant system at the centre is also considerably responsible for their slow growth.
  • Political parties do not wish that any serious challenge be thrown to their authority even by powerful pressure groups. Not only this, but even pressure groups have tried to develop under the patronage of political parties.
  • The funds are provided to them in a bid to go near them and directions are received from political bosses.
  • Even political parties try to divide each pressure group and to have a strong hold over one such group at least. Then by and large they follow negative methods for getting their work done. As is well known such a method is negative rather than being the positive one.
  • Then another cause of their slow growth is that in India individual legislators have not been found very effective by the pressure groups. Each such group realises that because of party discipline and with the operation of the Anti-Defection Act, each legislator must vote on party lines. Thus, contacts should be developed with the party and not with any individual legislator.
  • The pressure groups also realise that in India bureaucracy is very strong and can help them a lot. But somehow so far these groups, by and large, have failed to corrupt bureaucracy.
  • There is also no unity in pressure groups. In fact, there is no group which is not a house bitterly divided into several factions and sub-groups, one speaking openly against the other. In several cases there is also a lack of good leaders.
  • In several cases pressure group leaders try to become political leaders. Their political ambitions frustrate the basic character of the pressure group. Most of the pressure groups like trade unions, student organisations, etc., are not financially very sound and without finances these cannot function effectively.

Source: M. Laxmikant

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