Pressure Groups and Formal/Informal Associations and Their Role in the Polity

Pressure Groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity is an important topic mentioned in UPSC Civil Services Mains General Studies Paper 2 (GS2) syllabus. Aspirants preparing for Prelims are also advised to have a look at this topic. is glad to inform our community that this article is contributed to us by Vineet Dubey from Madya Pradesh under our * Write Articles – Win Prizes! * contest. Though our editorial team have added a few related/additional information regarding Pressure Groups in the same article to cover the topic in a single article, the lion’s share came from Vineet. Vineet is also the winner under Best Entry for the month of April. Congrats to him!

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Pressure Groups and Their Role in the Polity

Pressure group is a group of people who are organised actively for promoting or defending their common interest. The term ‘pressure group’ is used as the group attempts to bring a change in the public policy by exerting pressure on the government.

Pressure Groups are also known as Interest Groups or Vested Groups. There is large no. of formal /informal groups that influence the polity of any country, right from the formation of government itself to day-to-day governance issues. Superficially all the formal & informal associations collectively could be termed ‘Interest Groups’ as all of them have certain vested interests related to the general governance of the country. Interest groups are numerous and of many kinds but whenever they become active in order to achieve their interests by their attempts of influencing the public affairs at administrative or legislative level they are termed Pressure groups.

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Pressure groups are sometimes referred to as ‘Anonymous Empire’ & ‘legislation behind legislature’ due to their strong presence and influence in the polity. One of the characteristic features of any pressure group is that they try to manipulate governmental affairs without any intention to have any direct control over it which is one thing that differentiates it from a political party.

Techniques Used by Pressure Groups

  1. Electioneering : Placing in public office persons who favour their interests.
  2. Lobbying : Persuading public officers to adopt and enforce policies of their interest.
  3. Propagandizing : Influencing the public opinion.

Pressure groups may sometimes make use of media for dispersing their views in public and winning support. They may publish statistics in favour of their claims. How ever, some times they may even resort to illegitimate and illegal methods like strikes, violence or even bribes.

Pressure Groups in India

Pressure Groups

  • After independence there was dominance of single political party over government for long time and role of pressure groups was limited & perceived negative but today their role are taken to be constructive and democratic.
  • Conventional Pressure Groups (PGs) based on caste, community, religion-based & regional groupings play decisive role in Indian polity.
  • Most political parties do not have any clear nationalist ideology & they remain backed by certain groups especially religious and minority communities.
  • There are also news about the presence of foreign lobbies in parliament (e.g. lobbying by US companies in case of FDI). Institutional PGs like FICCI, CII etc. also influence policy decisions.
  • PGs remain more concerned on administration rather than policy decisions, much of their efforts are directed towards influencing general administration.
  • PGs make use of party platform to put forward their concerns but they lack alignment with any specific political party for long.
  • There are some groups which are sponsored by political parties themselves e.g. Youth Congress, ABVP, SFI etc.
  • Regarding techniques of PGs in India, they make use of traditional means like invoking caste, region or religion based loyalties in key persons keeping in view their background based on these parameters. Among modern means, they resort to lobbying, funding political parties and supporting favourable person in legislature as well as in key administrative posts.
  •  There are some groups that keep on emerging & dissolving as per circumstances or for specific purpose. e.g. anti-dowry, anti-sati etc.
  • PGs in India are more dependent on means of direct action like hunger strike, demonstrations, chakka jaams etc.

Major Pressure Groups in India

  • Business Groups – FICCI, CII, ASSOCHAM, AIMO, FAIFDA etc. (institutional groups).
  • Trade Unions – AITUC, INTUC, HMS, CITU, BMS etc.
  • Agrarian Groups- All India Kisan Sabha, Bharatiya Kisan Union etc.
  • Student’s Organisations- ABVP, AISF, NSUI etc.
  • Religious Groups – RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, Jamaat-e-Islami etc.
  • Caste Groups – Harijan Sevak Sangh, Nadar Caste Association etc
  • Linguistic Groups – Tamil Sangh, Andhra Maha Sabha etc
  • Tribal Groups – NSCN, TNU, United Mizo federal org, Tribal League of Assam etc.
  • Professional Groups – IMA, BCI, IFWJ, AIFUCT etc
  • Ideology based Groups – Narmada Bachao Andolan, Chipko Movement, Women Rights Organisation, India Against Corruption etc.
  • Anomic Groups* – ULFA, Maoists, JKLF, All-India Sikh Student’s Federation etc.

Note : Anomic pressure groups are spontaneous break through into the political system from the soiciety such as riots, demonstrations, assassinations and the like.

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.

Reference :

  1. Public administration theories by B.L.Fadia(Hindi ed.)
  2. Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations – M. Laxmikanth.
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