The mood on the ground in Aljunied GRC has changed since the last election in 2011 but it is still going to be tough for the People's Action Party (PAP) to wrest it back from the Workers' Party (WP), said former Cabinet minister and former PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng.
"We sense 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 at the PAP's branch office in the GRC's Serangoon ward on Tuesday, 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 (Emeritus Senior Minister) 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 PAP team in Aljunied GRC has been hard at work on the ground: "We've never given up on Aljunied and our people have been working very hard, not just myself."
But he declined to reveal the candidates who are 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 them. But that doesn't mean the political party denies itself the right to make last-minute tactical changes," he said.
The chairmen of the five PAP branches in the 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.
Mr Lim, currently chairman of Temasek Holdings, was previously a labour chief and a Cabinet minister for almost 20 years until he retired from politics in 2011.
But he was soon active on the ground again when the PAP appointed him to lead a task force to win the GRC back.
He, however, would not comment on talk that he would make a political comeback and 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.
Mr Lim was also coy about four-term MP Yeo Guat Kwang, of Ang Mo Kio GRC, being fielded in Aljunied GRC.
"There have been all kinds of speculation 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 hasn't decided which one is the best tasting," he said. "He may have to give his report to PM about which orh luak tastes the best."
Mr Lim was taking a dig at WP chairman Sylvia Lim who had earlier this month posted on Instagram a picture of her tasting the dish in single-seat Fengshan and declaring it "delicious''. It led to talk that she could be contesting Fengshan.
The PAP is set to unveil its Aljunied GRC candidates tomorrow.