Dr Tan Cheng Bock led more than 200 members and volunteers in his Progress Singapore Party's (PSP) first door-to-door home visits in West Coast GRC yesterday morning.
When asked if this was a signal that the PSP intended to contest in the area in the upcoming polls, he did not give a direct answer.
Dr Tan told The Straits Times: "The reception has been warm. Tell them: I'm coming home."
Barring major changes to electoral boundaries, PSP is widely expected to contest in West Coast GRC at the next general election, as the group representation constituency includes the area formerly under single-seat Ayer Rajah.
Dr Tan had served for six terms as the People's Action Party (PAP) MP for Ayer Rajah until it was absorbed into West Coast GRC in 2006.
Yesterday's visits were the party's first major grassroots event of the year, with 22 teams covering about 50 blocks in the GRC's Teban Gardens and Pandan Loop areas. The PSP was last seen in the West Coast area last month, at a much smaller walkabout at West Coast Market.
When asked about the choice of the PAP stronghold for his party's first home visits, Dr Tan said: "We have a plan, so now we have decided to come here. The places we go and the things we do; these are all very calibrated and well calculated."
Dr Tan's "home ground" advantage seemed apparent when several residents greeted him with familiarity at the food centre in Teban Gardens Road. Madam Diana Salleh, 38, said she received an Edusave award as a Secondary 4 student in 1996 from Dr Tan when he was MP.
"I remember him from all those years back, so I was eager to see him today," said Madam Diana, who has lived at nearby Block 44 for 35 years.
Mr Chan Ewe Chong, who works in the security sector, also recalled Dr Tan's friendly manner from over three decades ago. But he added that Ms Foo Mee Har, the GRC's current MP overseeing Ayer Rajah ward, has also been working hard.
"Frankly, she has been doing quite a lot of good for residents around here. It will be a tough fight!" said the 65-year-old father of three.
During his walk, Dr Tan bumped into Ms Foo, and the two exchanged greetings and shook hands.
Ms Foo, now in her 10th year as the area's MP, told The Straits Times that she was on her usual Sunday routine - having breakfast and chatting with residents. On what she thought of a possible PSP contest in West Coast, Ms Foo said her team have a good relationship with the residents and will continue to do their best.
"At the end of the day, the residents are in the best position to judge who can most ably serve their interests and take care of their day-to-day needs. Our work at Ayer Rajah continues," she said.
Dr Tan congratulated the PAP team for "doing a lot of good work" in West Coast.
He was asked for his views on the alliance of four opposition parties - Singaporeans First, Democratic Progressive Party, People's Power Party and Reform Party - reported earlier this month. The four will contest the next general election under one banner, shrinking the crowded field of 11 opposition parties to eight.
Dr Tan said that while he has met members of each party, he did not want to commit the PSP to the alliance. "I'm still building my own team. They are entitled to what they want to do, it's fair... but we are looking at the bigger picture."