Q. Critically analyse the role of pressure groups in Indian political process? Do you think that in recent years, they have emerged as an important actor on Indian political landscape?
Ans. A pressure group is a group of people who are organised actively for promoting and defending their common interest. It is so called as it attempts to bring a change in public policy by exerting pressure on the government. It acts as a liaison between the government and its members. Example: All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), etc.
ROLE PLAYED BY PRESSURE GROUPS
- Establish pluralistic democracy: Existence of pressure groups strengthen pluralist democracy. They encourage the general public to participate in politics.
- Enhance policy making: Pressure groups improve the government’s policy-making through better information and scrutiny. The information and advice provided by groups helps to improve the quality of government policy and legislation.
- Improve governance: Pressure groups improve the quality of governance. Consultation with affected groups is the rational way makes government more efficient by enhancing the quality of the decision making process.
- Freely operating pressure groups are essential to the effective functioning of liberal democracy in three main ways:
- They serve as 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.
5. Pressure groups enable new concerns and issues to reach the political agenda, thereby facilitating social progress and preventing social stagnation. Example: Lok Satta, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), etc.
6. Promote social cohesion: Pressure groups increase social cohesion and political stability by providing a ‘safety-valve’ outlet for individual and collective grievances and demands.
- Narrow objectives: They may do little in achieving their objectives because of elitism and overly-narrow focus objectives.
- Promote sectional interest: They sacrifice public interest by giving priority to their sectional interest.
- Disrupt social harmony: The in-egalitarian way that some groups operate increases social discontent and political instability by intensifying the sense of social frustration and in justice felt by disadvantaged and excluded sections of the population.
- Non-legitimate power: Unlike conventional politicians, pressure- group leaders have not been elected. Pressure groups are therefore not publicly accountable, meaning that the influence they exert is not democratically legitimate.
EMERGENCE OF PRESSURE GROUPS ON INDIAN POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
They have indeed emerged as an important factor in Indian political landscape by variety of ways. Some of this includes-
- Election reforms: Pressure groups have played a proactive role in reforming election process. Example: PUCL led the crusade for Voters right to know relevant qualifications of candidates for office, including information about their income and assets.
- Creating Awareness: Pressure groups have created awareness about political parties. Example: The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), which analysed details of all donations above INR 20,000 to five national parties — BJP, Congress, NCP, CPI and CPM — found that corporate donations accounted for 89% of all known donations during four years viz. 2012-13 to 2015-16.
- Reservoir of leadership: Many pressure groups have emerged as a centre of social and political leadership such as Student’s Pressure Groups. This category includes All India Student Federation (AISF), Student’s Federation of India, National Students Union of India, etc
With the increasing costs of electioneering and emergence of a proactive civil society, lobbying and propagandizing have attained greater importance in Indian political landscape. These interest groups, though not directly visible in the political space, can truly help in strengthening democracy by acting as an important institution in imbibing the culture of democracy at the very grassroots level.