In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Meaning of Pressure Groups 2. Characteristics of Pressure Groups 3. Salient Features of Pressure Groups in India 4. Techniques of Pressure Groups 5. Critical Evaluation of Pressure Groups in India.
Meaning of Pressure Groups:
Today there is no country in the world which is free from pressure groups. These groups try to influence and pressurise every political institution to serve their own interests and to ensure that at least in no case their interests suffer, if at all these are not promoted.
Prof. S. Finer has characterised these groups as ‘anonymous empire’ whereas Richard D. Lambert is of the view that these are unofficial government, which implies that no government can run without taking their view point into consideration.
These groups influence both public policy as well as administration and go a long way in determining political structure of the society and the form of government. In India Prof. Rajni Kothari has made a significant study of working and organisation of these groups.
Pressure groups are concerned primarily with certain issues and thus may not field their candidates at the time of elections. But those who have some common interest come together and try to change the course of public affairs.
If taken in this sense 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.
It exerts persuasive powers to get certain political decisions in its favour. These groups have no public but only private interests and also these are organised groups of people who have some common interests for solving their own problems.
Characteristics of Pressure Groups:
Pressure groups everywhere have certain characteristics. Each group organises itself keeping in view certain interests and thus tries to adopt to the structure of power in the political system. But in every government and political party there are clashing interest groups and as such not only that they wish to dominate the political structure, but also try to brush aside those groups which are opposed to their interests.
Thus, each political system and party which is either in or out of office is pressurised by certain interest groups, which many a time inter-act, counter-act and react to each other. In India there is multi-party political system and in each party there are several pressure groups. In the unification and bifurcation of these parties, these groups go a long way i.e., play a considerable role.
Then another feature of the pressure groups is that these very quickly change political allegiance, as that suits to their conditions and protects their interests. The groups being both big or small, appear as well as disappear depending on the situations and the then prevailing conditions.
Accordingly difficult to catalogue these groups either on the basis of their size, or duration, or political allegiance or even the purpose for which these are organised.
Then another characteristic or feature of these pressure groups is that these try to follow modem means of exerting pressure, without boldly renouncing old methods. But their sole purpose of adopting old and modem methods is to promote as well as protect their own interests.
They adopt techniques like financing of political parties, sponsoring such candidates at the times of elections which are their close associates and who can be depended upon and to ensure that such persons hold executive jobs in the government who look after their interests.
These groups also keep bureaucracy and top high officials in good humour and pay them for the services which they get either from the political bosses or permanent executive. The pressure groups, in order to protest their interests, also employ traditional means of exploiting caste, creed and religion and in their name try to win their co-operation.
They finance caste and religious organisations, bodies and donate money at public meetings to become popular with them. While doing so they forget national interests or the cause of national integration. They keep their group interests above national interests.
Pressure groups have no political commitments. These try to side with the government of the day. These guess with which party to side, which can in the long run be to its advantage. Thus for this no norms can be laid down.
If any pressure group has any permanent political affiliation that can be only due to compelling circumstances. Not only this, but pressure groups will try to have their lobbies in every wing of the political hierarchy.
Still another feature of pressure groups is that these always try to see that there is no political stability and perfect law and order situation does not prevail in the country. In case that happens then both political bosses and bureaucracy will be in complete grip of the situation and the groups will have to play to their tune.
On the other hand, if there is instability and lack of law and order, then role of pressure groups will be more dominant These will then have upper hand in every walk of life.
These groups, in order to have an upper hand, create a situation of uncertainty, help creating explosive situations where violence becomes unavoidable or encourage strikes, etc. and in order to embarrass political bosses see that the people demonstrate, observe fasts and hartals and so on.
Salient Features of Pressure Groups in India:
In India pressure groups though comparatively of recent origin have so organised themselves that they neither openly support nor oppose any political party. Each such group tries to thrive on the support of some political party or power. These have a sort of fear psychology.
These always try to remain neutral in politics. In fact, in India political parties try to have pressure groups with them and wish to win their co-operation. One finds that at the time of elections political parties approach religious and trade union leaders for their active support.
The bigger the political party, more it shall be able to absorb and adjust pressure groups. In a weak political system pressure groups try to become equal partner with political bosses.
Pressure groups in India are required to work in multi-party system and thus they are forced to keep shifting their loyalties. They do not work independently but each one functions under the patronage of some political party. These pressure groups are forced to pay consideration to region, religion and caste rather ideology and national integrity and even political honesty.
They feel interested in creating a situation of disorder and lawlessness for having group advantage out of political instability. They use both modern and old techniques of putting pressures on the powers that be and thus they do not adhere to anyone method. No group has political commitment and thus many groups become anomic organisations.
In the words of Kochanak, “As the Indian case reveals, the political system itself sets the parameters for group activities and groups can be understood as part of a larger and more complex set of relationships which composes the larger political system.” Quite often in India pressure groups are over weighed by religion, caste and language rather than ideological considerations.
In India, however, pressure groups have made slow progress. Firstly, because Congress party though a political party, has been an important link between local groups and state governments. Then another reason for slow growth of these groups is that bureaucracy has seen these groups with distrust and thus never encouraged group people to come near it.
But in spite of this pressure groups in India have started playing important role. Hardgrave has said, “Interest groups not only are agents of interest articulation but they also increase political consciousness…. In addition, interest groups may be reservoirs of political leadership; this has been particularly true for trade unions of India.”
Techniques of Pressure Groups:
Pressure groups are very keen that their objectives should be achieved and for this they adopt various techniques in India. They try to go near those who can help them in achieving their objectives may he be an administrator or a politician. They, however, prefer the former over the latter.
They use caste, creed, religion, relationship and above all money power to go near the power that be Such an approach is made usually indirectly because under code of conduct public servants wish that their identity should not disclosed while because of party discipline, ordinary members of a House of a legislature cannot support a particular cause, against the established policy of the party.
The pressure groups try to have their representatives in various committees which are set up by the government from time to time, particularly when their interests are involved. They approach the experts to convince them of their view point and even establish their contacts with public servants at the low level.
They attach special importance who are either decision makers or can articulate effectively their view point. They provide funds to political parties at the time of election or when otherwise needed by them and for them that is an investment. Trade unions adopt the methods of strikes, demonstrations, gheraos, etc., for getting their demands met. Sometimes these even resort to violence.
Thus, in India pressure groups use different types of techniques but on the whole these are weak and at the developing stage.
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 extent their support to the political party other than the one which is in power. They hesitate to displease authorities and 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 group. 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 strong hold over one such group at least. Then by and large they follow negative method 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 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 in several factions and sub-groups one speaking openly against the other. In several cases there is also lack of good leader.
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.
Thus, on the whole, in India so far the impact of pressure groups on politics has not been felt and is also not going to be much deep rooted unless things radically change to their advantage. It is, however, being noticed that pressure groups are trying to get roots as in advanced western societies, though still these are in the initial stages.