Political parties

  • Political parties are essential for ‘interests aggregation’ and effective working of not only democratic states but also non-democratic states. In fact, political parties have become obvious phenomena of every political system in the world.
  • The rise of political parties has led to the formation of a field for studying them, called ‘Soteriology.’
  • Political parties have been analyzed by different perspectives:
    • Normative approach: Edmund Burke explains this perspective as political parties consist of a group of people having common ideology, purpose or aim, come together and collectively strive for national interests.
    • Behavioral approach: Scholar like Otto Von kirchheimer says that the only aim of political parties is to acquire power. Rise of ‘Catch all parties’ is a golden sign of decline of normative value like ideology.
  • Professor Harold J. Laski had underlined the importance of parties when he wrote,“There is no alternative to party governments which save us from dictatorship, in any state of a modern size where people follow the party in a systematic organized way.” This statement correctly separates dictatorship/autocracy, which is one person’s arbitrary rule, from democracy where people make a free choice of their representatives to rule, on their behalf. Also, a mob doesn’t have any place here.
  • People do follow here in an organized way. The parties identify issues on which they seek popular verdicts. Periodic elections provide opportunities to the parties to present these issues, and if supported by the people they become bases of governance by the representatives elected by the people
  • Zoya Hasan says the political party is “a keystone political institution in the representative regime”.
  • Parties regularly fulfil three crucial functions.
    • Nominating candidates for public offices.
    • Formulating and setting the agenda for the public.
    • Mobilizing support for candidates and policies in an election.
  • Other institutions also perform some of these functions, but as A.H. Somjee says, “what distinguishes parties is their emphasis on linkage. Parties are seen, both by their members and by others, as agencies for forging links between citizens and policy-makers.” A Representative government cannot function without them.
  • But, Giovanni Sartori pointed out that it did not mean that party members are not self-seeking.

“Party is a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavors the national interest upon some particular principles in which they are all agreed.”- Edmund Burke

Definitions of Political Parties

  • According to G. Sartori, “Any political group who is identified by official label, present at the election, and has the capability of placing candidates through elections for public office.”
  • According to H.J. Laski, “Political parties are big or small groups of people organized to establish their legitimate control over the government of the country, through the process of elections.” The primary goal of the parties is to install their leaders in the government and to ensure their continuation as long as possible. For this purpose, they adopt various methods of securing popular support, including public rallies, distribution of literature, use of media and even organizing musical evenings.

Theories of Political Parties

Marxist Theories of Parties

  • Basis of perspective: According to them the parties in capitalist countries represent class interests. Thus, they are instruments of protection of different classes. The party that represents the working people alone has the right to exist. The bourgeois parties do not represent the true democratic process. Therefore, they must be eliminated.
  • Lenin’s theory: Lenin has given the theory of communist party in his pamphlet WHAT IS TO BE DONE?. However, Marx never accepted the idea of party because party creates hierarchy, goes against the idea of equality.
  • Lenin believed that workers are not capable of developing the revolutionary consciousness on their own, hence communist party will act as ‘vanguard’ of revolution.
  • He makes distinction between communist party and trade unions. Trade unions are the parts of bourgeoise systems. Trade unions can get only some concession for workers, whereas communist party can bring workers to power.
  • Communist party is a secret society as the aim of communist party is to overthrow the state. It is pyramidical in structure. It will be having its cells at the local levels. Top leadership will do what is determined by the base. Bottom up approach which he called ‘Democratic centralism’ (Democracy + centralism).
  • Communist party works on the principle of democratic centralism. People will communicate to the top leadership, what they want. Top leadership will convert people’s demands into a workable program of action. Once decision is taken by the top leadership, it will be implemented at all the levels and hence it will be centralized.
  • Communist parties enjoyed constitutional sanction in socialist countries. There was practically no difference between the party and the government. For Example, The 1977 Constitution of the former Soviet Union described and analyzed Lenin’s leadership for the success of the Great Revolution of 1917. Also the 1982 Constitution of the People’s Republic of China declares the National People’s Congress, under the leadership of the Communist Party, as the highest organ of state power.

Behavioural theories of parties.

Maurice Duverger’s theory (Duverger’s Law)
  • Basis for law: As a scholar of behaviorist school, in his series of papers between 1950- 60s, he propounded that ‘on studying the electoral system of a particular society one can conclude the type of party system acquired there.’
  • This law tells the relationship between the electoral system and the party system. If country has simple majoritarian type electoral system, it will have two party system. If country has proportional representation, it will have multi-party system. But India is an exception to the Duverger law, where multi party system exists with simple majoritarian type.
  • Duverger has also given the structural analysis of political parties. On the basis of ideology, there are two types of parties.
    • 1) Mass parties – Liberal and communists.
    • 2) Cadre based parties – Rightist parties.
  • Analysis: In his analysis of political parties, he said that the primary objective of the parties is to acquire political power, or to share the exercise of such power. He wrote, “political parties have as their primary goal the conquest of power or a share in its exercise. They try to win seats at elections, to name deputies and ministers, and to take control of the government.”
  • He has also given the structural classification of parties with respect to internal structures. He discusses four types of internal structures.
    1. Some parties have branches (Branch Parties) e.g. Liberal parties.
    2. Cells – feature of communist parties.
    3. Caucus – A small group of leaders, elites, junta primarily associated with rightist parties.
    4. Militia – Some parties can have their armed wings also like the fascist party or Mussolini. Red guards of Communist Party of China.
Robert Michael’ Theory
  • He was an Italian sociologist who contributed to ‘elite theory’ by describing the political behavior of intellectual elites.
  • Iron law of oligarchy: His law is based on ‘behavioral movement’. (He and his associates roamed and studied various electoral behaviors and patterns to come at “Iron Law of Oligarchy”)
  • He analyzed the internal functioning of socialist parties of Germany and came to the conclusion that unlike marxist’s understanding, there is no difference between principles and international functioning of socialists parties and liberal democratic parties.
  • In his famous book “Political parties” published in 1911, he propounded “Iron Law of Oligarchy” while describing the nature of political parties. Law says Power in a party is controlled by only a few members. Irrespective of any party there is always an ‘Oligarchy’ that has all power and that can not be changed. That is ‘Power always remains in the hands of elites.’
  • For example, In case of India, INC (Indian National Congress) since its formation has been criticized by many as a party of few elite people.
Sigmund Neumann’s Theory
  • According to him the success of democracy depends on the efficient working of parties. Whether the government is a parliamentary or presidential democracy, it cannot succeed in the absence of parties. He said an unorganized mob of people cannot govern the state. Its organized form is a political party.
  • He opined that in view of sharp differences between the democratic and authoritarian parties, it was impossible to give a single accepted definition. According to him, a political party is representative of social interests which act as a bridge, a link, between the individual and the society.
  • (To be noted here) His definition was on the basis of a two-party or multiparty system. He opines, in a one-party system, there is the total absence of competition and distinct policies and programs. A party must have a second part, or a competitor, which is missing in one-party states. Thus, in a one-party system, the party becomes totalitarian.

Classification of Political Parties

Maurice Duverger Classification

  • The classification of political parties that was presented by Maurice Duverger in 1951 is now generally accepted. He had classified parties on the organizational basis as:
    • the elitist or traditional parties, and
    • mass parties.
  • (Later a third category known as the intermediate type of parties was added).
  • The elitist or traditional parties
    • Elitist Parties do not have their support among the masses and are represented by the elite class and which are not cadre-based are elitist parties. Membership or entry in these parties is exclusive and not open for all.
    • Elitist parties are normally divided into
      • the European Type
      • the American Type.
The European Type Party
  • Admit a very limited number of people. Whether these parties are liberal or conservative or progressive, they are against admitting anybody and everybody to their membership. These parties emphasize quality rather than numbers.
  • They seek the support of prominent and influential persons. The wealthy people occupy a prominent place in these parties. It is generally believed that these elitist parties are flexible i.e. Legislators are free to vote as they wish.
  • For example, in 2003 as many as 122 Labor Party (ruling party) members of the House of Commons voted against a resolution that sought the use of force against Iraq. Though there was massive defiance, yet, no action was taken against such a large number of members.
The American Type Party
  • The prominent differences are:
    • The nature of presidential government in a federal set-up, as against British parliamentary democracy in a unitary state, and
    • The U.S. parties have remained limited to the elite, away from the masses.
    • The U.S. parties are essentially election-oriented. American parties are led by professional politicians, many of whom are not democratically elected.
    • Despite this, American parties have been able to establish better contacts with the masses than most of the European parties.
  • An important feature of contemporary US parties is that their local committees have become very powerful, state committees enjoy lesser powers, and the central organization is rather weak. Another feature of the American system is the lack of party discipline among the members.

The Mass Parties

  • Parties that emerged with a popular support base, especially from the common man, are mass parties. Generally, people’s movements are more likely to become mass parties.
    • For example, Several parties in the newly independent third world countries are generally mass parties. (INC, AAP, and others). Some of the parties of the developed world like the ‘Popular Republican Movement’ (P.R.M.) of France may also be placed in the category of mass parties. They are classified into
      • Socialist parties
      • Communist parties and
      • Fascist parties.
Socialist Parties
  • Socialist Parties: ‘The British Labor Party’ was described as the pioneer of the socialist parties the world over. Unlike elitist parties, the socialist parties try to enlarge their membership and take contributions from their members. The parties preferred contributions from common men and women, rather than the rich business houses. At their origin, Britain’s trade unions supported these candidates.
  • In socialist parties, generally party leadership dominates over its members. These parties believe in socialism to be brought about by the peaceful democratic means of parliamentary process. They sought to abolish capitalism through legislative measures.
  • But, with the commencement of rapid liberalization in the decade of 1990s, the talk of destruction of capitalism suddenly gave way to adoption of a capitalist path even by democratic parties.
  • Socialist parties in India:
    • Socialism as a party ideology had appeared late in India in the 1930’s (Congress socialist party).
    • The Indian concept of socialism is different due to its rejection of the orthodox so-called scientific socialist doctrines that focus on the dictatorship of the workers.
    • The Indian model holds that socialism cannot be achieved through the state apparatus. Indian socialism became aligned with the Gandhian principle that stresses on right means as well as outcome.
    • Examples of socialist parties, 1. Socialist party of India 2. Samajwadi party of India
The Communist parties:
  • The communist parties based on the ideology of Marx and Lenin seek close contacts with the masses. Communist parties follow the principle of ‘democratic Centralism’, which implies democratic participation of members in party structure, but centralized decision making and supervision.
  • Critics to communist concept of democracy say that there is hardly any democracy in these parties, as all decisions are made by a handful of top leaders, who ensure strict obedience and discipline. No other party anywhere in the world, except perhaps the Fascist parties, is so rigidly based on ideology as the communist parties are.
The Fascist Parties
  • Fascist advocates all powerful states and call for one party system. The fascist parties support open competition and capitalism, but blindly follow one leader. War and violence are important tenets of fascism. Fascists talk of mass-base, but they use armed forces to inculcate military discipline and impart military training to the masses. The fascist youth are not only given military training, but they even wear military uniform, carry out daily disciplined exercises, and are often punished for defiance.

Intermediate Type Parties

  • Propounded by Maurice Duverger. He says there is a third category of political parties. These are different from both elitist and mass parties, yet they are closer to the mass parties. These are:
    • Indirect Parties
    • Parties in developing/third world countries
  • Indirect Parties : At times a number of big or small committees perform political functions leading to the setting up of a political party. This may be described as an indirect party. The birth of the ‘British Labor Party’ in 1906 was somewhat this situation.
  • Parties in Developing Countries: In the post-Second World War period a large number of political parties have come into existence in the third world developing countries. Most of the developing countries followed the UK model or USA model or remained communist. All of them have been described as intermediate types because they were yet to be fully organized as disciplined parties.

Hitchner and Levine’s Classification of Political Parties

  • They observed that normally people are associated with one party or the other on the basis of their personal views and that depends on several other socio-economic forces. People do associate themselves with one party or the other, taking into account their class, economic interests, hereditary interests, and interests of a particular group.
  • Based on the above observation, political parties are classified into three categories. These are,
    • Pragmatic parties
    • Doctrinal parties
    • Interest parties
  • Pragmatic parties: These are normally not committed to any particular ideology. Their policies are adjusted according to the requirements of situations. Most of these parties are usually influenced more by the leader of the day and less by the party ideology. Pragmatic parties are a more common phenomenon in developing and underdeveloped countries. In the Indian context, Congress was earlier an ardent doctrinal party but in recent time can be a good example of a pragmatic party especially after 2018.(as its shift among centrism, leftism, and rightism)
  • Doctrinal parties: The parties that are committed to a particular ideology and believe in certain principles may be described as the doctrinal parties. The policies are often changed or adjusted according to domestic or international environmental changes, but their ideologies remain unaltered. Socialist parties may be included in this category. There can be even parties of the right in liberal democracies that fall in this category. For example, the Bharatiya Janata Party in India has a definite ideology, but since 1998 it has made several adjustments. On the other hand the Communist parties and the Fascists are totally doctrinal parties.
  • Interest parties: These parties are described as ‘interest-oriented’ parties. When an interest group converts itself into a party, either temporarily or permanently, it comes in this category. Nature of interests may vary according to local conditions and demands. In India, there are a number of such interest-oriented parties. For example, include the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the Peasants and Workers Party of Maharashtra, or even the Bahujan Samaj Party committed to the upliftment of the dalits.

Party System

  • Party System is the notion used in comparative political science concerning the system of government by the political party. The concept was originated by European scholars, especially James Bryce and Moisey Ostrogorsky.
  • Categorisation of parties (as we did above) is useful to study politics but the real character of a party in a country and eventually the character of politics in that country can be analyzed by studying the party system. G. Sartori gave the most widely used classification of party systems when he said, ‘party system should be classified on the basis of relevant parties (not just parties) who have capability to form government.’ Hence, party systems can be distinguished on the basis of the number of relevant parties.
  • Definite sort of stability comes to exist, on the basis of the long period of evolution in any country’s political parties in respect of their numbers, their internal structure, their ideologies, alliances and relations with the opposition. A comparative study of different party systems enables us to understand the political systems of the countries concerned.
  • Several recent scholars have offered their classifications of party systems,
  • Duverger broadly divided all the party systems into two.
  • These are (i) pluralistic party systems and (ii) one-party systems.
  • Pluralist party systems can be classified into: 1) Multi-party systems and 2) Two-party systems.
  • One party system can be classified into: (1) one-party systems and (2) the dominant party systems.

Multi Party System

  • Multi Party system: Technically when a country contains more than two relevant parties it is called a multi party system. There are several countries like France, India, and Italy who follow a multiparty system. India has more than 50 parties who have their relevance in government either at center or state. In a multi-party system, three, four or more parties may get together at any point of time to form coalition governments. Such governments generally adopt a common minimum programme for governance, as they do not have commitment to any one ideology.
  • The winning candidates may not necessarily secure even half of the total votes cast. In a multicandidate election, the candidate getting the largest number of votes is declared elected, whatever percentage of total votes this may be.

Evolution of multi-party system in India:

  • India has the distinction of having such a large number of parties that, for some time now, it is impossible for any single party to be able to win a majority on its own. For almost 40 years after independence (with the exception of 1977-79 period), Congress Party dominated the Indian political scene.
  • Since the early 1990s the position has changed. Several parties formed the United Front Governments in 1996 and 1997, with outside support of Congress and the CPIM. The elections held in 1998, and again in 1999 threw up hung Parliament, and BJP led several party coalitions came to power. The 24-party National Democratic Alliance Government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee provided unique stability for over 5 years, which is very uncommon for a coalition of so many parties. The NDA included parties of different hues.
Merits of multi-party systemDemerits of multi-party system
It is more democratic, and none of the parties can become arbitrary or authoritarian.Breeds indiscipline, and leads to frequent formation and collapse of coalition governments.
The respect of the legislature is enhanced as its decisions are taken after due deliberations on the floor of the House.The leadership has to make compromises, and the government often suffers from indecision.
Ongoing check and balance process between government and opposition.Instability and lack of discipline are major shortcomings of the multi-party system.
This system ensures representation to minorities, and also protects their interestsThis system is most unsuitable for crises, when quick decisions are required, but cannot be taken because of the involvement of several parties, ideologies and leaders.

Two Party System

  • The leaders and scholars of western world consider ‘dualism’(two party) as the best system though it has not become very popular. In the two-party system, there is constant competition between the two parties for securing a majority of popular votes and seats in the legislature.
  • Besides, there may be one or more smaller parties also in the two-party system. But, the smaller parties neither come to power nor do they normally influence the outcome of elections, though at times smaller parties may associate themselves with one or the other major party.
  • James Jupp has talked about the indistinct and strict two-party system. The most prominent example of indistinct type is the United States. According to him Britain is the best example of a strict two party system as both the parties there have definite organization, they remain within party discipline, and members of Parliament ordinarily do not defy their leadership.
It ensures the stability of the governmentThey say that this system presents just two alternatives to the voters. Many voters can hold views which are not represented by the two parties. They do not get the opportunity to have their true representation in the legislature.
It is relatively easy for the Prime Minister to form the Cabinet.The majority party can have any legislation adopted by the legislature on the basis of its absolute majority. The opposition does get an opportunity to express its views, but the power of the Parliament is, in effect, limited.
In a disciplined two-party system the task of the Prime Minister is easy, unless there is a weak leader and unless the party is faction-ridden.Members of legislature merely carry out the wishes of party whips, and their initiative is often checked.
The task of voters is easy in a two party system, as they have only two alternatives to make their choice.
Since there is a strong opposition, its voice is carefully heard by the ruling party, and its views taken into serious consideration.

One Party System

  • It implies the existence of only one party in a country. The countries committed to certain ideologies such as Marxism or Fascism normally do not allow the existence of any opposition party. In one-party states, there is, therefore, no opposition. Parties other than the ruling party are either constitutionally debarred, or they are crushed by the rulers.
  • This system originated with the establishment of the rule of the Communist Party of the USSR after the Bolshevik Revolution. Mustafa Kemal Pasha’s one-party rule in Turkey was claimed to be democratic, while Fascist Party in Italy (1922-43) and Hitler’s Nazi rule in Germany (1933-45) were typical examples of the dictatorship of one man who led the only party system.
  • The term one-party system was initially used after 1930 by certain Fascist writers. Prominent among them were Manoilesco and Marcel Deat. They tried to find similarity between Fascist/Nazi and Communist regimes. However, communist writers strongly opposed any such similarity. The western writers place all one-party systems in one category of non-democratic regimes.
  • James Jupp has described three different forms of one-party rule,
    • Liberal one-party rule: There is internal democracy in the party, leadership is willing to listen to its criticism, and local governments enjoy a certain amount of autonomy. Thus, this may be called democratic one-party system.
    • Rigid one-party rule: The party is under absolute control of a leader, and there is no internal democracy. Elections are not permitted even for party units.
    • Authoritarian rule: The regimes of Hitler in Germany or Mussolini in Italy described as dictatorial/authoritarian.

Dominant Party System

  • Dominant party system is the system of governance where one party dominates and wins elections over other parties for a long period of time. This makes other parties or opposition practically insignificant. For example, India.
  • The party system during the first two decades after India’s independence was termed as the Single Dominant Party system. It was a multi-party system where the ruling party played an overwhelmingly dominant role. Although a number of other political parties existed and operated politically, yet the central space of politics was occupied by the Indian National Congress only.

Roles of Political Party

  • Political parties are responsible for selecting candidates who will run for political office. The parties choose candidates who believe in the party’s platform. These candidates represent the party’s members and help to spread the party’s message during elections.
  • Act as mediator between citizens and government.
  • Political parties are not policymaking organizations in themselves. They certainly take positions on important policy questions, especially to provide alternatives to the position of whichever party is in power.
  • Amplify people’s issues.

Interest Groups and Pressure Groups

  • People having common interests often get together. When they organize themselves to protect and promote their interest they are known as interest groups. Example: FICCI.
  • Interest groups have been defined by a number of prominent writers. Many prefer to use the term pressure groups, while others call them interest groups. But there is a clear distinction between the two, though it is not always easy to lay down clear demarcation.
  • Interest groups are associations for interest articulation. For defining Interest groups Almond and Powell say, “by ‘interest group’ we mean a group of individuals who are linked by particular bonds of concern or advantage and to achieve their objectives by articulating the interest among society.”
  • Interest articulation:
    • The process by which individuals and groups make demands upon the political decision-makers we call interest articulation.
  • Interest groups are not political parties as they do not participate in electoral politics, and on their own have no direct role in the governance of the country.
  • Finer calls interest groups as “Invisible empires.”
  • Writer V.O. Key was of the opinion that the interest groups are such private organizations who are established to influence public policy. They do not take part in the selection of candidates or the legislative processes. They devote themselves to pressurizing and influencing the government in order to promote their interests.
  • Pressure groups or interest groups come under the field of ‘Pluralist Democracy.’ Therefore, one can see a drastic increase in the presence of these groups in those countries where democracy is adopted as a system of government.
  • According to the Rajani Ranjan Jha, ‘pressure groups in recent times have been playing a very crucial role in strengthening democracy and influencing decisions of public policy in India. Since the paradigm shift from government to governance and further to good governance, pressure groups have emerged as a strong mechanism for making democracy participatory, transparent, accountable and responsive.’ In India’s reference he also cites the example of Anna Hazare who had launched an epic anti-corruption movement for passing a legislation regarding the Jan Lokpal in India.
  • PB Mehta writes, ‘outside of political parties’ sphere there is enough vitality, creativity and reciprocity, where the people are expressing themselves in all their concreteness, individuality and complexity, more than enough to sustain faith in the face of political disillusionment. Interest groups have emerged as an effective mode of tool to capture that.’

“Modern democracy is everywhere characterized by the presence of numerous pressure/interests groups & associations.” – Roche & Stedman

  • What is the difference between interest groups and pressure groups then?
    • In general way behaviouralists thinkers calls these groups as ‘Interest groups’ and others called them as ‘Pressure groups.’
    • J.D. Reynaud, while explaining the difference between both, says, “when interest groups act at the political level and create pressure on the government they are called as Pressure groups.” That is, When interest groups endeavor to influence the political process, and thereby get favorable decisions in matters such as enactment of legislation, imposition of taxes and duties, framing of rules and issuance of licenses, etc. then these interest groups transform themselves into pressure groups.

Characteristics of Pressure Groups or Interest Groups

  • Lobbying is only one of the methods of pressure politics, yet it is the most effective. Lobbying is, peculiarly American practice.
  • Represent a diverse section of society.
  • They attempt either to strengthen or change the direction of government policy.
  • Sometimes have very specific objectives and sometimes have wider objectives.
  • Flexible in nature (i.e. philosophy or ideology wise)
  • Can be a professional group or spontaneously(from any social movement) made also.

Functions of Pressure groups:

  • Create pressure: Pressure groups create pressure on the government for fulfillment of demands of people they represent. Example: FICCI sought support for the MSME sector in the budget 2022.
  • Vital link: Pressure groups act as a vital link between the government and the governed. They keep governments more responsive to the wishes of the community, especially in between elections. Example: ABVP, Bharatiya Kisan Union
  • Minority representation: Pressure groups are able to express the views of minority groups in the community who might not otherwise receive a hearing. Example: Jamaat-e-Islami
  • Advice government: Pressure groups offer an alternative source of advice to the government, separate from that coming from the Public Service. Example: FICCI, All India kisan sabha
  • Deepening of democracy: Pressure groups generally promote opportunities for political participation for citizens, without the need to join a political party. Moreover, they allow for the democratic rights of freedom of speech, assembly and association to be upheld.
  • Role in Judicial Administration: They use judicial machinery for securing and safeguarding their interests.

Techniques of Pressure Group

  • Electioneering: Placing a candidate in office or legislator through the election process who is in favor of demands and ideology of a particular group. Example: RSS, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF)
  • Lobbying: Persuading the public bearers to adopt and enforce the policies which groups think beneficial for them.
  • Propagandizing: Creating public opinion in their favor by various means to indirectly influence the government, as in democracy public opinion decides governments future.

Types of Pressure Groups

  • G. Almond presented four types of pressure groups.
    • Institutional Interest Groups: These groups consist of professionally employed persons. Normally are a part of government machinery. Whenever such an association raises protest it does so by constitutional means and regulations. (Dominant in developed and especially in developing countries because of their nature of being overdeveloped state) Example: IAS Association or IPS Association, State civil services association, etc.
    • Associational Interest Groups : These are organized specialized groups based on particular organizations formed for interest articulation, but to pursue limited goals. These include trade unions, organizations of businessmen and industrialists and civic groups. (Mainly dominant in developed countries) Example, Indian Chamber of Commerce, Amnesty international, Greenpeace foundation, Trade Unions such as AITUC (All India Trade Union Congress), Students Associations such as NSUI etc.
    • Anomic Interest Groups or Promotional group: By anomic pressure groups we mean more or less a spontaneous breakthrough into the political system from the society. Such groups may influence the political system in numerous unconventional ways.(dominant feature of underdeveloped countries) Example, Mobs, riots, demonstrations. Examples: United Liberation Front of Assam, All Assam Students Union, and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front.
    • Non-Associational Interest Groups: Groups based on ethnic, regional, status and class groups that articulate interests on the basis of individuals, and religious heads. These groups have informal structure. These include caste groups, language groups, etc. These types of groups are dominant features of developing countries. Example: Marathi bhashik manch, Hindi Sahitya Sammelan and Tamil Sangh etc.
  • Interest groups have been classified by Blondel on the basis of factors responsible for their formation.
  • Broadly speaking there are two categories of groups. These are,
    • community interest groups
    • associational groups
  • Both the categories are further divided into two sub-categories each.

Community interest groups:

  • The community interest groups are formed to promote community interests. The social relations are at the back of their formation. Community life brings people together. Most of the community groups are informal and only some are formally organized. They put pressure on the government to seek state protection and assistance. The community groups are divided between (a) customary and (b) institutional groups.
    • Customary group: The groups that essentially follow the customs and traditions of the community fall in the category of customary groups. The groups of castes and subcastes in India are of this type.
    • Institutional groups: Blondel has described those community groups as institutional groups who are formed by people living together for a long time, and who develop common social relationships. Some of the examples of this type can be welfare associations of serving or retired soldiers like the veterans unions, the civil servants welfare associations, or the senior citizens’ welfare bodies.

Associational groups:

  • The associational groups identified by Blondel generally follow the pattern of Almond. These groups have two sub-categories (a) protective groups and (b) promotional groups.
    • Protective groups: The protective groups try to protect the interests of their members like those of trade unions and associations of traders or professionals. They, thus, have more or less homogeneous clientele. The protective groups generally manage to have greater influence over policy making process
    • Promotional groups: The promotional groups, on the other hand, have membership of large cross-sections of the community. The promotional groups may include groups for disarmament, or the Greens seeking promotion of environmental security. The promotional groups generally manage to have lesser influence over policy making process than the protective groups.

Maurice Duverger’s Classification

  • Maurice Duverger, who prefers to use the term pressure groups, talks of two main problems.
  • First, whether those groups should be called pressure groups whose only function is to exert political pressure, or even those can be called pressure groups which have multi-dimensional activities.
  • Second, whether the term pressure groups should be used only for non-official groups or even official groups can be brought in this category. It is in the context of these two questions that Duverger offered the following classification.
  • In the context of his first question, Duverger distinguishes between (i) Exclusive Groups and (ii) Partial Groups.
    • Exclusive Groups: Those groups whose only function is to put pressure on the political system through the device of lobbying .
    • Partial Groups: The partial groups, on the other hand, are essentially set up to be the promoters of interests of their members, but in that process do occasionally use pressure tactics. There are numerous such partial groups in every democratic country including Britain and India. Several associations of professionals (doctors, lawyers, chartered accountants, and architects), of university or school teachers, or women activists, or those concerned with cultural activities also, if needed, try to put pressure on civil servants, legislators and others.
  • On the second basis, Duverger makes a distinction between (i) Private Groups and (ii) Public Groups
    • Private Groups: When private institution groups began to use pressure on the state apparatus, called private groups. The first country to have experienced private pressure groups was the United States.
    • Public Groups: When public servants or official members of government form a pressure group it is called a public group. The official groups may even include those officials who secretly align themselves with one or more pressure groups to serve certain interests.
  • Duverger also refers to what he calls pseudo-pressure groups. These groups include specialists who use pressure politics not for themselves, but for others. This is often done for monetary consideration. Duverger includes in this category, the technical experts as well as information (mass) media.

Pressure Groups in India

  • Business Groups: FICCI, Federation of All India Foodgrain Dealers Association (FAIFDA), etc
  • Trade Unions – All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS)
  • Professional Groups – Indian Medical Association (IMA), Bar Council of India (BCI),
  • Agrarian Groups– Bharatiya Kisan Union, etc
  • Student’s Organisations– Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), All India Students Federation (AISF),
  • Religious Groups – Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Jamaat-e-Islami, etc.
  • Caste Groups – Harijan Sevak Sangh, Nadar Caste Association, etc
  • Linguistic Groups – Andhra Maha Sabha, etc
  • Tribal Groups – Tribal National Volunteers (TNU) in Tripura, United Mizo federal org, Tribal League of Assam, etc.
  • Ideology based Groups – Chipko Movement, Women’s Rights Organization, India Against Corruption etc.
  • Anomic Groups – Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), Dal Khalsa, etc.
  • For women: Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Ladies Organization (FLO)

Shortcomings of pressure groups:

  • Narrow selfish interests: Many times pressure groups work to acknowledge their narrowness that may lead to unconstitutional activities, spread of communalism, etc.
  • Corruption:
  • Misuse of power: Instead of the pressure groups exerting influence on the political process, they become tools and implements to subserve political interests.
  • Propagating hatred or extremism:
  • Instability: Example, the Naxalite movement started in 1967 in West Bengal.
Intelligence Bureaus’ report one of the pressure groups, that is NGOs (2014
  • A significant number of Indian NGOs (funded by some donors based in the US, the UK, Germany, The Netherlands and Scandinavian countries) have been noticed to be using people centric issues to create an environment which lends itself to stalling development projects in India.
  • Foreign donors lead local NGOs to provide field reports which are used to build a record against India and serve as tools for the strategic foreign policy interests of the Western government.
  • Identifies seven sectors/ projects that got stalled because of NGO-created agitations against nuclear power plants, uranium mines, coal-fired power plants, farm biotechnology, mega industrial projects, hydroelectric plants and extractive industries.
  • These include a campaign against palm oil imports from Indonesia and disposal of e-waste of Indian IT firms, organizing construction workers in urban areas, protests against identified projects such as Gujarat’s Special Investment Regions, Par Tapi Narmada River Interlinking Project and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
  • Report says, the NGOs become the central players in setting the agenda, drafting documents, writing in the media, and government.
  • All the above is used to build a record against a country or an individual in order to keep the entity under pressure and under a state of under-development.

Difference between Pressure groups and Political Party

Pressure group/Interest groupPolitical party
They seek to influence public policy-makers, but without attempting to take over directly the control and conduct of the government.Political parties are primarily concerned with governance , to contest elections and try to secure a majority of seats in the legislature.
Pressure groups are the representation of homogeneous interests seeking influence.Political parties strive to acquire power and exercise it—by electing—mayors and deputies, and by choosing cabinet ministers and the head of state.
Pressure groups do not participate directly in the acquisition of power or in its exercise; they act to influence power while remaining apart from it and exert pressure on it.Professor S.R. Maheshwari wrote, “It is the task of a political party to reconcile and aggregate their competing demands of interest groups and put them into coherent programmes and action plans.”
Pressure groups seek to influence the men who wield power, not to place their own men in power, at least not officially.Political Parties are committed to a wide-range of issues and policies; their goal is political power.
The interest/ pressure groups are essentially non-political associations. Their primary functions may be economic, social, religious or humanitarian. Pressure is not their main business. They do so if necessary for the promotion of the interests of their members.

General Differntiation of Pressure Groups in West vs East

Association basedIdentity based
Highly institutionalizedRelatively unorganized (Anonymous)
One person is generally admitted to only one group.One person is generally admitted to only multi groups.
Profession has more weightage than identityIdentity has more weightage than profession.


  • Pressure groups are now seen as an inseparable and helpful element of the democratic process as society has become highly complex and people cannot pursue their interests on their own. They need collective support(participation of everyone) to amplify their demands and put pressure on the government.

The similar way Hannah Arendt in her theory of Action calls for people to participate in politics or political action. According to her, when man performs political action, he achieves the ‘human condition’.

  • Democratic politics has to be politics through consultation, through negotiation and some amount of bargaining is also involved. Thus, it is very essential for the government to consult these organized groups at the time of policy formulation and implementation.

Social Movement

  • The International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences (1972) defines a social movement as a variety of collective attempts to bring about change. The attempts may be to bring about change in certain social institutions and to create an entirely new social order. Or the attempts may represent a socially shared demand for change in some aspects of the social order.
  • Turner and Kilhan define a social movement as “a loosely organized effort by a large group of people to achieve a particular goal within the limit of constitution.”
  • Toch (1965) emphasizes that a social movement is an effort by a large number of people to collectively solve a problem they feel they share in common.
  • Hence, above definitions clearly specify two important qualifying features of a social movement,
    • Firstly, social movements involve collective action as against actions of a small group of individuals.
    • Secondly, the collective attempt is designed to promote change or resist change in the society in which the attempt is made.
  • Why does social movement need to be used as a tool for conveying demands when we have Pressure groups and Political parties?
    • Pressure groups or political parties carry many limitations, formality and restrictions. On the other hand, social movement is the least institutionalized, informal and easy to join collective movement for any group of people to showcase their wants.
    • Also the highest form of pressure can be created using social movement. For example, Chipko movement, Anna Andolan.
  • Does terrorist activities come under Social movements (as both use collective efforts to convey demands)?
    • NO! Social movements (as definition say) is something where demonstrations occur by adhering to the limits of the constitution of the land.

Way of Classifying Social Movements: Old and New

  • Old social movements:
    • Most of the twentieth century social movements were class based such as working class movements and peasant movements or anti-colonial movements.
    • While anti-colonial movements united entire people into national liberation struggles, class-based movements united classes to fight for their rights. The most far-reaching social movements of the last century thus have been class-based or based on national liberation struggles.
    • Examples: 1. Workers’ movements in Europe 2. Formation of communist and socialist states across the world, most notably in the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, these movements also led to the reform of capitalism. 3. National struggle against colonialism in eastern countries like India.
    • The old social movements functioned within the frame of political parties. The Indian National Congress led the Indian National Movement. The Communist Party of China led the Chinese Revolution. Hence, the old social movements clearly saw reorganization of power relations as a central goal.
  • New social movements:
    • Today some believe that ‘old’ class based political action led by trade unions and workers’ parties is on the decline. Others argued that in the affluent West with its welfare state, issues of class based exploitation and inequality were no longer central concerns.
    • So the ‘new’ social movements were not about changing the distribution of power in society but about quality-of-life issues such as having a clean environment.
    • Rajni Kothari attributes the surge of ‘new’ social movements in India in the 1970s to people’s growing dissatisfaction with parliamentary democracy. Kothari argues that the institutions of the state have been captured by elites. Due to this, electoral representation by political parties is no longer an effective way for the poor to get their voices heard. People left out by the formal political system join social movements or non-party political formations in order to put pressure on the state from outside for better quality of life. That led to the emergence of new nongovernmental organizations, women’s groups, environmental groups and tribal activists.
  • Role of globalization in surge of new social movement:
    • This is very true that globalization has been re-shaping peoples’ lives in industry and agriculture, culture and media.
    • Often firms are trans-national. Often legal arrangements that are binding are international such as the regulations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Environmental and health risks, fears of nuclear warfare are global in nature. Not surprisingly therefore many of the new social movements are international in scope.
    • What is significant, however, is that the old and new movements are working together in new alliances such as the World Social Forum that have been raising awareness about the hazards of globalization.
  • Emergence of new social movement:
    • The decades after the Second World War witnessed the end of empire and the formation of new nation-states as a result of nationalist movements in India, Egypt, Indonesia, and many other countries. Since then, another wave of social movements occurred in the 1960s and early 1970s.
    • This was the time of the war in Vietnam where forces led by the United States of America were involved in a bloody conflict in the former French colony against Communist guerrillas.
    • In Europe, Paris was the nucleus of a vibrant students’ movement that joined workers’ parties in a series of strikes protesting against the war.
    • Across the Atlantic, the United States of America was experiencing a surge of social protest. The civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King had been followed by the Black Power movement led by Malcolm X. The anti-war movement was joined by tens of thousands of students who were being compulsorily drafted by the government to go and fight in Vietnam.
    • The women’s movement and the environmental movement also gained strength for anti war struggle during this time of social ferment.
    • It was difficult to classify the members of these so-called ‘new social movements’ as belonging to the same class or even nation. Rather than a shared class identity, participants felt that they shared identities as students, women, blacks, or environmentalists.

Types of Social Movements

  • Social movements can be classified under various typologies depending on such factors like the aim of the movement, organization, means adopted to achieve the aims, value, strength and so on. Some of the types are:
    • Migratory movements: When a large number of people migrate due to discontent and or due to the shared hope for a better future in some other land, we talk of migratory movements. For example, the mass migration of people from Bangladesh to India during troubled times.
    • Reform movements: This type of a movement constitutes a collective attempt to change some parts of a society without completely transforming it. Such movements are mainly possible in democratic societies where people tolerate criticism. For example, the socio-religious reform movement of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in India aimed to remove evil social practices.
    • Revolutionary movements: Such a movement seeks to overthrow the existing system and replace it with a totally different one. For example, the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution.
    • Resistance or Reactionary movements: These arise among people who are dissatisfied with certain aspects of change. For example, the Islamic Fundamentalist movement or Ku klux klan movement.
    • Alternative movement: Movements that seek limited societal change. They target a small group of people and a specific behavior, and attempt to change the behavior of individual people in relation to that issue.

Origins of Social Movements

  • Social movements are not new. Throughout history, individuals have come together peacefully to demand change from dominant elites.
  • Examples include the movement to end the transatlantic slave trade dating back to the sixteenth century, movements to gain women’s suffrage emerging in the late nineteenth century, and the peace, environmental, feminist and LBGT rights movements of the twentieth century.
  • Over the past several decades, social mobilization has continued to expand and increase across the globe. Example, in established democracies (the “Occupy” movements and “Black Lives Matter” movements in the US, the UK and beyond), in more recently democratized upper middle-income countries (Brazil, India, Turkey); and in countries that are undergoing major transformations (those in the Middle East and North Africa, Venezuela).

Evolution in India:

  • Social movements have had significant role-play in Indian politics since much before the establishment of India as a new state in 1947. (Peasants movements, workers movements)
  • At the time of the Nehruvian age, from Independence to Nehru’s demise in 1964, poverty mitigation was a basic standard in opposition to which policy schemes and political assertions were calculated. During this period, social movement activism was straightaway liable to this state discourse.
  • Nevertheless, the role of social movements in India has changed in the last quite a few decades along with a new political focus from state to market and from supreme ideologies of secularism to beliefs of religion-based nationalism.
  • What are the social conditions or motivational forces that are necessary and sufficient to the generation of a social movement?
  • M.S.A. Rao identified three factors relating to the origins of social movements,
    • Relative Deprivation: A social movement usually starts because the people are unhappy about certain things. In other words, they feel that they are deprived of something. The Naxalite movement would have this as a cause when the peasants felt that they were being exploited and deprived of their rights and the fruits of their labor.
    • Structural Strain: When the prevailing value system and the normative structure does not meet the aspirations of the people, the society faces strain. So a new value system is sought so as to replace the old. This leads to conflicts and tension and individuals violate social norms. For example, Inter Caste marriages in fairly strict societies.
    • Revitalisation: Revitalisation is the third factor associated in the emergence of a social movement. Though social movements express dissatisfaction and dissent against the system, they may also offer a positive alternative. Indeed they may be started for revitalizing the existing system which is undergoing structural strain. This urge for revitalisation can generate a movement.


  • The school of political science revolves around the individual and his impact on society (and vice-a-versa). Social movements perhaps best show this relationship. They arise because individuals and social groups seek to change their conditions. Thereby they change both themselves and society.

Electoral System


  • Since representative democracy has become inevitable, electoral systems have become part and parcel of any theory of democracy. Any electoral system has to be free and fair, representative with minimum wastage of votes. It is to be noted that democracy is needed for the protection of minorities. Hence electoral system should be such, which gives enough space for the representation of the views of minorities. Real democracy is not majoritarian, but consociational.
Electoral System 2

Types of electoral system

Majoritarian representation types

  • Simple majoritarian type.
    • It is least representative of all system. Maximum amount of wastage of votes occurs here. Because is based on the idea of winner takes all.
    • Its only merit is its simplicity. It favors the national parties, or parties operating at a bigger level. Examples include election to Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha in India. Election of house of commons in USA.
  • Second Ballet.
    • In this system, winning candidate needs absolute majority and not just the plurality of votes. It means winning candidate must get 50% +1 of total valid votes.
    • There is also a possibility of two elections. In the first round, if no candidate gets absolute majority then the second run of election takes place. In the second round, only two top candidates are in the election. When only two candidates participate, one is bound to get 50% + 1 votes.
    • It is more representative but it has its drawback of unnecessary expenditure and extra burden on electoral machinery, electoral fatigue etc. For example the presidential election in France, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka take place by this method.
  • Alternative vote system.
    • In this system, winning candidate requires absolute majority, but there is no need to conduct elections for the second time. Therefore it is an improvement over second ballet.
    • Voters are supposed to write their preferences. In case no candidate gets absolute majority, then the candidate who is least preferred is eliminated. The second preference of the voters will be seen. These are the voters who had given the first preference to the eliminated candidate. Now their votes are transferred to their second preference. This transfer keeps on happening until a particular candidate is able to secure absolute majority. Example: members of house of representative in Australia.

Proportional representation

  • Even when absolute majority is introduced, large majority remains unrepresented. Hence proportional representation has been introduced. Proportional representation ensures that democracy does not become tyranny of majority. It ensures that the voice of minority gets represented. Proportional representation results into coalition governments.
  • STV (Single Transferrable Vote system)
    • Invented in Ireland for the election of the members of assembly. Proportional representation by STV is similar to the alternative vote system with two differences.
    • In alternative vote system, winning candidate requires absolute majority. In proportional representation by STV system, winning candidate requires ‘quota’ of votes. quota means minimum number of votes, not necessarily absolute majority. It means winner does not take all.
    • Alternative vote system is a majoritarian type. Majoritarian systems are employed in case of single member constituencies. Proportional representation is employed in case of ‘multi member constituencies’. It means more than one candidate is elected.
    • There can be different ways to determine quota. The most popular formula is Droop quota.
    • Quota = ( Total number of valid votes / Total number of candidates to be elected ) + 1
    • Case of Indian presidential election
      • Constitutionally it is called as ‘proportional representation by single transferrable vote system’. However the problem is, that proportional representation is meant for multi member constituencies, but presidents case is an example of single member constituency.
      • But we cannot call it as alternative vote system, because winning candidate requires quota of votes. Interestingly, the quota comes out to be absolute majority. Thus election is more near to alternative vote system but termed as proportional.
  • List system
    • Most representative of all. Mostly used in continental Europe. The merits of the system include
      • Minimum wastage of votes.
      • Elimination of personality factor and importance of the political parties.
      • Gives representation to the weaker candidates who may not have chances to win on their own but can be introduced on the party list.
      • There is no need to give reservation.
    • In this system, entire country is converted into single constituency. But it is a multi member constituency. Each party will get seat in the legislature in proportion of the votes. Party will send the required number of candidates.
    • There can also be provision of minimum benchmark. e.g. In Germany, party has to get 5% of the votes to qualify for the seat in the legislature. This system is also advantageous for the parties having national reach rather than regional parties.
  • Methods of minority representation.
    • Proportional representation – both STV and List system. It is a joint electorate system.
    • Separate electorate – Separate electorate may be threatening to the national unity hence proportional representation is a preferable approach.
    • Reservation like that in India.

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