PAP's candidate is lawyer Pillai, 48
LAWYER K. Muralidharan Pillai is the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate to defend Bukit Batok constituency at the by-election.
The 48-year-old was part of the PAP team that nearly wrested Aljunied GRC back at the 2015 General Election.
Yesterday, he was formally introduced by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam as the PAP candidate at a press conference at the party's Bukit Batok branch.
Mr Tharman, who is Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC, said: "We have a man who knows Bukit Batok and its people well, works well with everyone, totally dedicated to residents. I've known Murali for the last 15 years and I have the highest regard for him."
The announcement comes a day after the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) named secretary-general Chee Soon Juan as its candidate for the by-election.
The by-election is triggered by the sudden resignation of former MP David Ong over an alleged affair with a grassroots volunteer and party member. Both Mr Ong and the volunteer have since resigned from the PAP.
Mr Tharman said the party did not want to rush into making an announcement.
Also present at the press conference were Jurong GRC MPs Desmond Lee and Ang Wei Neng, and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who is MP for Yuhua.
Mr Pillai said he is honoured that the party placed faith in him, adding: "I have a record of working in Bukit Batok."
If elected, he said his focus will be on helping the elderly and needy.
"Bukit Batok is a mature town, more seniors will come along. It will be my job to help them," he said, adding that he world work towards preventing a permanent underclass from developing.
He noted that the constituency also has a number of rental flats and one of his priorities will be to ensure that children there get the same basic opportunities that others get.
"These are not local issues but national issues. I am keen to pursue such issues in Parliament if elected," he said.
Mr Pillai, a partner at law firm Rajah & Tann, has been the chairman of the PAP's Paya Lebar branch in Aljunied GRC since 2012.
But he is no stranger to Bukit Batok, having been secretary of the PAP's branch in the constituency from 2007 to 2011. He also held roles such as the chairman of the ward's Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle and vice-chairman of its PAP Community Foundation.
Mr Pillai was also part of a team of four election rookies and one veteran backbencher who stood in the opposition-held Aljunied GRC in the 2015 General Election.
The PAP team, which observers said had only a slim chance of winning, almost pulled off an upset and scored 49 per cent of the vote against the Workers' Party.
The date of the by-election has not been announced.
Some analysts, however, say it could take place as early as May, soon after Parliament completes its debate on the Budget on April 15.
Responding to a question on when the by-election will be called, Mr Tharman said: "We don't know when the election will be. But we felt one week was enough for things to settle and to listen to views.
"But there was no reason to hold back announcing a candidate that we are very comfortable with."
Asked about the so-called by-election effect, he said: "In a by-election, the opposition has an advantage. That's the nature of the by-election. We took that into account in picking someone who will appeal to Bukit Batok residents."
Asked about his electoral opponent, Mr Pillai said he would be "coming up against a seasoned politician. But politics is about serving residents. And I consider myself seasoned in that regard".
He added: "As far as I'm concerned, I know it will be a tough battle.
"One thing I learnt in Aljunied is to fight hard for every vote. I am going to fight hard for every vote in Bukit Batok."