SINGAPORE - The mood on the ground in Aljunied has shifted since the last elections but it is still going to be tough for the People's Action Party (PAP) to wrest the ward back from the Workers' Party, said former Cabinet Minister and PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng.
"We sense that the mood has changed. At the beginning it was quite difficult for the team, people were not very open or very friendly. But now people are quite friendly," Mr Lim told The Straits Times after a late night meeting held at the ward on Tuesday (Aug 25) to discuss campaign strategies.
But he was quick to add that the mood change may not mean more support for the PAP: "Whether that translates into votes for PAP, it's hard to say. Because as (ESM) Goh Chok Tong said, many people are friendly to him but it doesn't necessarily translate into votes on the day itself."
Mr Lim said that the current PAP team at Aljunied has been working very hard on the ground but he stopped short of revealing the names of the candidates to be fielded.
"It's good to let people know who the candidates are likely to be, so they can assess them better and decide on a more considered basis, rather than a short term to evaluate. But that doesn't mean the political party denies itself the right to make last-minute tactical changes," he said.
The current chairmen of the five PAP branches in Aljunied GRC are party activists Victor Lye, 52, in Bedok Reservoir-Punggol; Mr K. Muralidharan Pillai, 47, in Paya Lebar; Ms Chan Hui Yuh, 38, in Serangoon; Mr Chua Eng Leong, 44, in Eunos; and Mr Shamsul Kamar, 43, in Kaki Bukit.
The former labour chief, who retired in 2011 after 31 years in politics, has been active on the ground after he was appointed to lead a PAP task force to win the GRC back. But he would not be drawn on rumours about him making a political comeback from retirement to lead the Aljunied team.
"I've been asked that question by many people, including residents. And I say, you will know on Nomination Day," he said.
He was also coy about the possibility of four-term labour MP Yeo Guat Kwang being fielded at Aljunied.
"There have been all kinds of speculation ever since the Prime Minister mentioned he would be deployed somewhere else. I understand he has been trying orh luak (oyster omelette) in a number of places, and he hasn't decided which one is the best tasting," said Mr Lim, a reference to recent social media postings by WP chairman Sylvia Lim.
"He may have to give his report to PM about which orh luak tastes better."
The PAP is expected to formally unveil its candidates for Aljunied on Friday.