SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party (PAP) is set to announce its candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election on Monday (March 21), and lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai has emerged as its likely candidate.
According to Chinese language daily Lianhe Zaobao, Mr Murali, 48, had a meeting with former PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng on Sunday (March 20) night shortly after arriving back in Singapore from a holiday.
When asked about the hastily-called meeting, which took place at around 8pm at the PAP's Paya Lebar Branch office, Mr Murali told Zaobao: "Whenever I have something to discuss with my grassroots leaders, I will hold a meeting.
"I'm afraid I can't reveal the details of the meeting."
After the meeting, Mr Murali - who was part of the PAP's five-member Aljunied GRC team that lost narrowly to the Workers' Party in last year's General Election - was seen shaking hands with the branch activists and taking a group photo with them.
Mr Lim, a former Cabinet Minister, said in response to queries from the paper that it was “possible” Mr Murali would be attending Monday's press conference to announce the party's candidate.
"He just got off the plane, and needed to discuss matters with those whom he had worked alongside with for the past four years," Mr Lim added.
Mr Murali, a long-time party activist who is married with four children, was appointed PAP Paya Lebar Branch chairman on May 1, 2012.
Prior to that, the head of local law firm Rajah & Tann's commercial litigation department served as branch secretary of PAP's Bukit Batok Branch under the late Dr Ong Chit Chung, who was MP for Jurong GRC from 2001 to 2008.
He also helmed committees such as Bukit Batok's Indian Activities Executive Committee and its Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told reporters on Sunday: "We will be announcing our candidate very soon, and we are confident we have someone who is known to residents, who works very hard, and is sincere at heart."
Mr Tharman, who is the PAP's second assistant secretary-general, was asked for his comments hours after Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan announced he would contest the single seat which was vacated by former PAP MP David Ong.
"I am not surprised that Dr Chee Soon Juan has indicated that he is going to stand in Bukit Batok. We welcome the contest," he said.
Mr Tharman, who is an MP for neighbouring Jurong GRC, was at an event to mark the first anniversary of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's death.
He has been directly overseeing developments in the Bukit Batok single-member constituency since Mr Ong tendered his resignation two Saturdays ago, over an alleged affair with a grassroots volunteer.
He also attended last Monday's Meet-the-People Session in the constituency alongside Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng, who has taken over as chairman of the Jurong-Clementi Town Council from Mr Ong.
Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee is looking after the constituency in the meantime.
Last week, Mr Tharman had assured residents their needs would be tended to till they get a new MP: "We will make sure that problems are solved, that their needs are taken care of, that all the projects that are ongoing carry on smoothly and are completed."
He also said last week that the PAP had a few "very strong candidates" it was looking at: "When we finally announce the candidate, I can assure you it will be someone committed to the interest of Bukit Batok residents, and who will be able to also speak for them and Singaporeans in Parliament."