Some organizations directly participate in the democratic process. These organizations are called political parties. They contest elections and aim to form government.
Pressure Groups:Some organizations indirectly participate in the democratic process. These organizations are called interest groups or pressure groups.
Pressure groups do not aim to form or run the government. When people of common occupation, interest aspirations or opinions come together; in order to achieve a common objective; they form pressure groups. These pressure groups carry on popular movements in order to meet their objectives. It is not necessary that all the pressure groups go on creating popular movements rather many of them work in closely knit groups.
Some examples of popular movements in India are: Narmada Bachao Andolan, Movement for Right to Information, Anti-liquor Movement, Womens Movement, Environmental Movement.
Sectional Interest Groups:Usually interest groups seek to promote the interests of a particular section or group of society. Trade unions, business associations and professional (lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc.) bodies are some examples of this type. They are sectional because they represent a section of society: workers, employees, businesspersons, industrialists, followers of a religion, caste group, etc. Their principal concern is the betterment and well being of their members, not society in general.
Public Interest Groups:These second type of groups are called promotional groups or public interest groups. They promote collective rather than selective good. They aim to help groups other than their own members. Trade Unions, Students Union, Ex-Armymen Association, etc. are examples of public interest groups.
Public Sympathy:They try to gain public support and sympathy for their goals and their activity. For this, they carry information campaigns, organise meetings, file petitions, etc. Many of them also try to influence the media to get more attention.
Protest Activity:They often organise protest activity. Protest activities include like strikes or disrupting government programmes. Strikes and disruptions are utilized to pressurize the government to take note of their demand.
Lobbying:Business groups often employ professional lobbyists or sponsor expensive advertisements. Some persons from pressure groups or movement groups may participate in official bodies and committees that offer advice to the government. Some professional bodies; like ASSOCHAM and NASSCOM are examples of such groups.
Influence on Political Parties:The interest groups and movement try to influence political parties. They usually have a particular political ideology and political position on major issues. A pressure group can be directly or indirectly linked to a political party.
Most of the trade unions and students unions in India are directly affiliated to some or the other major political party. The activists of such pressure groups are usually the activists or leaders of the party.
Sometimes, political parties grow out of movements. Asom Gana Parishad is a good example. It originated from students movement in Assam which was against the outsiders working in Assam. The two main political parties of Tamil Nadu; DMK and AIADMK; originated because of a long drawn social reform movement during the 1930s and 1940s. The latest entrant; the AAP is another example; which originated from the RTI movement.
But in most of the cases, the relationship between political parties and interest or movement groups is not so direct. They usually take positions which are opposed to each other. However, they maintain dialogue and negotiation. Many issues raised by movement groups are often taken up by political parties. Many new leaders in the political parties come from interest or movement groups.
Critical Analysis of Influence of Pressure Groups:
Many arguments are forwarded against pressure groups. Many thinkers say that since a pressure group champions the cause of a small section of society; so it should be viewed with caution. Democracy is not about narrow interests of a particular section but a larger interest of the overall society. Unlike political parties, a pressure group is not answerable to the people and hence they may not have a broader perspective in mind. There can be many examples of pressure groups which are sponsored by powerful business lobbyists or by some international agencies. They should be treated with caution.
Many people argue in favour of pressure groups. They say that putting pressure on the government is always positive for the deepening of democracy. The political parties often tend to forget the real concerns of people; in their pursuit of power. The role of pressure group is to awaken them from their slumber.
It can be said that pressure groups play the balancing role among various political ideologies and usually highlight the real concerns of people.