Class X - Political Science

Chapter - 5 Popular Struggles and Movements

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Popular struggle in Nepal

  • Nepal witnessed an extraordinary popular movement in April 2006.
  • King formally remained the head of the state but the real power was exercised by popularly elected representatives.
  • King Gyanendra, the new king of Nepal, was not prepared to accept democratic rule. He took advantage of the weakness and unpopularity of the democratically elected government. In February 2005, the king dismissed the then Prime Minister and dissolved the popularly elected Parliament.
  • All the major political parties in the parliament formed a Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and called for a four-day strike in Kathmandu.
  • This protest soon turned into an indefinite strike in which MAOIST insurgents and various other organisations joined hands. People defied curfew and took to the streets.
  • They stuck to their demands for restoration of parliament, power to an all-party government and a new constituent assembly.
  • On 24 April 2006, the last day of the ultimatum, the king was forced to concede all the three demands. The SPA chose Girija Prasad Koirala as the new Prime Minister of the interim government.
  • The restored parliament met and passed laws taking away most of the powers of the king. The SPA and the Maoists came to an understanding about how the new Constituent Assembly was going to be elected.


Popular struggle in Bolivia

  • The World Bank pressurised the government to give up its control of municipal water supply.
  • The government sold these rights for the city of Cochabamba to a multi-national company (MNC).
  • The company immediately increased the price of water by four times. Many people received monthly water bill of Rs 1000 in a country where average income is around Rs 5000 a month. This led to a spontaneous popular protest.
  • In January 2000, a new alliance of labour, human rights and community leaders organised a successful four-day general strike in the city. The government agreed to negotiate and the strike was called off. Yet nothing happened.
  • The police resorted to brutal repression when the agitation was started again in February. Another strike followed in April and the government imposed martial law.
  • But the power of the people forced the officials of the MNC to flee the city and made the government concede to all the demands of the protesters.
  • The contract with the MNC was cancelled and water supply was restored to the municipality at old rates.


  • Democracy evolves through popular struggles. Defining moments of democracy usually involve conflict between those groups who have exercised power and those who aspire for a share in power. These moments come when the country is going through transition to democracy, expansion of democracy or deepening of democracy.
  • Democratic conflict is resolved through mass mobilisation. Sometimes it is possible that the conflict is resolved by using the existing institutions like the parliament or the judiciary. But when there is a deep dispute, very often these institutions themselves get involved in the dispute. The resolution has to come from outside, from the people.
  • These conflicts and mobilisations are based on new political organisations. Spontaneous public participation becomes effective with the help of organised politics. There can be many agencies of organised politics. These include political parties, pressure groups and movement groups.


Pressure groups are organisations that attempt to influence government policies when people with common occupation, interest, aspirations or opinions come together in order to achieve a common objective.


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.


Promotional groups or public interest groups promote collective rather than selective good. They aim to help groups other than their own members. For example, a group fighting against bonded labour fights not for itself but for those who are suffering under such bondage.


Movements are issue-specific movements that seek to achieve a single objective within a limited time frame.


Pressure groups and movements exert influence on politics in a variety of ways

  • They try to gain public support and sympathy for their goals and their activities by carrying out information campaigns, organising meetings, filing petitions, etc. Most of these groups try to influence the media into giving more attention to these issues.
  • They often organise protest activity like strikes or disrupting government Workers’ organisations, employees’ associations and most of the movement groups often resort to these tactics in order to force the government to take note of their demands.
  • 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 governmen


The relationship between political parties and pressure groups can take different forms, some direct and others very indirect: 

  • In some instances, the pressure groups are either formed or led by the leaders of political parties or act as extended arms of political parties. For example, most trade unions and students’ organisations in India are either established by, or affiliated to one or the other major political party. Most of the leaders of such pressure groups are usually activists and leaders of party.
  • Sometimes political parties grow out of movements. For example, when the Assam movement led by students against the ‘foreigners’ came to an end, it led to the formation of the Asom Gana Parishad.
  • In most cases the relationship between parties and interest or movement groups is not so direct. Most of the new leadership of political parties comes from interest or movement groups.


  • On balance, however, pressure groups and movements have deepened democracy. Putting pressure on the rulers is not an unhealthy activity in a democracy as long as everyone gets this opportunity.
  • Governments can often come under undue pressure from a small group of rich and powerful people.
  • Public interest groups and movements perform a useful role of countering this undue influence and reminding the government of the needs and concerns of ordinary citizens.
  • Even the sectional interest groups play a valuable role. If one group brings pressure on government to make policies in its favour, another will bring counter pressure not to make policies in the way the first group desires. The government gets to hear about what different sections of the population want. This leads to a rough balance of power and accommodation of conflicting interests.

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