Three-cornered fights - Bukit Batok SMC

Unexpected contender appears

Mr Samir Salim Neji (at far left) greeting the PAP's Mr David Ong. SDP's Mr Sadasivam Veriyah (above) joins them in the three-way fight.
Mr Samir Salim Neji (left) greeting the PAP's Mr David Ong. SDP's Mr Sadasivam Veriyah joins them in the three-way fight.PHOTOS: WANG HUI FEN, ST STRINGER
Mr Samir Salim Neji (at far left) greeting the PAP's Mr David Ong. SDP's Mr Sadasivam Veriyah (above) joins them in the three-way fight.
Mr Samir Salim Neji greeting the PAP's Mr David Ong. SDP's Mr Sadasivam Veriyah (above) joins them in the three-way fight.PHOTOS: WANG HUI FEN, ST STRINGER

The unexpected arrival of an independent candidate has turned what should have been a straight fight in Bukit Batok into a three- way contest.

Mr Samir Salim Neji, 45, turned up yesterday at Keming Primary School with his wife to challenge the two other candidates - the People's Action Party's (PAP) Mr David Ong, 54, and the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) Mr Sadasivam Veriyah, 63 - in the single- member constituency.

But Mr Ong took it in his stride and said residents will recognise his work in Bukit Batok, which was carved out of Jurong GRC.

"People have seen me at work, and now is the time to reinforce to them who I am and what I can do for them. We've got to walk the ground, hit the ground fast, and reach as many people as we can," said the managing director of a publishing firm.

Mr Ong, who was elected in Jurong GRC in 2011, said he is prepared to take on the competition.

"It's a fair and just election. We welcome any party that wants to contest here, so there'll be more options for our residents and voters."

Mr Samir is one of two independent candidates in this year's elections. Hailing from Kerala, India, he has been a Singapore citizen for 15 years and is the managing director of software firm Anaplan Asia.

In his campaign, he aims to push for family happiness and less stress. "I want to reduce the stress so there's more time with the family. How can I do that? I have a plan for doing that, so I'll try to explain it to the electorate."

He plans to engage voters through social media. "It's about how fast I can reach you through mobile phones and computers. I'm a techie, so I'll be able to do that."

He is confident of his chances. "My confidence level is probably 80, 85 per cent," he said.

The SDP's Mr Sadasivam, a former teacher, hopes to contest Bukit Batok and be the voice of Singaporeans in Parliament.

The entrance of a third, independent contestant did not faze Mr Sadasivam, who said he would stick to his party's strategy.

"I'm not coming in as a single candidate. I'm coming in under the party, and the party has a vision. We know what issues we are going to touch on in the battle - medical expenses, transportation and households' welfare," he said.

The three-cornered fight almost did not happen as Mr Samir did not have enough assenters to complete his form. He said some of them had gone to work and had not made it to the nomination centre on time.

PAP members offered to reach out to some Bukit Batok residents to get them to help Mr Samir make up the numbers to complete the form.

Mr Sadasivam said: "I was quite surprised. We did not object because it's still within the rules. I've got no hard feelings and I'm willing to welcome him."

•Additional reporting by Joanna Seow and Marissa Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'Unexpected contender appears'. Print Edition | Subscribe