When the People's Action Party's Mr Chua Eng Leong first started walking the ground in the opposition-held Aljunied GRC in May last year, residents gave him a cold, hostile reception.
But after spending the past year visiting nearly three-quarters of the homes in the constituency's Eunos ward and helming the weekly Meet-the-People Session (MPS), he senses that things have improved, he told The Straits Times.
Yesterday, the son of former Cabinet minister Chua Sian Chin met about 30 residents and activists for over an hour to thank them for their support.
The occasion also marked the one-year anniversary of the private banker restarting the MPS at a PAP branch office in Bedok Reservoir.
This had been discontinued initially after Aljunied became the first group representation constituency to fall to the opposition after the Workers' Party (WP) wrested control of it in the 2011 General Election.
Addressing volunteers and residents before inviting them to a spread of satay and drinks, Mr Chua, 43, said: "We need your support to go out and tell residents to give us another chance.
"We will prove the critics wrong... Whether it's me or not (as a candidate) doesn't matter."
The WP's Mr Pritam Singh is the MP for Eunos, one of five divisions in Aljunied GRC.
Mr Singh's MPS, which was also held yesterday, is at a void deck opposite the PAP branch office.
Mr Chua's priorities are to complete house visits for all residents in the ward, and engage younger citizens more, especially parents in their mid-20s and 30s whose children attend the neighbourhood's PAP Community Foundation kindergarten.
Eunos resident Steven Ng said he was heartened that Mr Chua was making an effort to reach out to residents.
"I'm a neutral party. It's not about the lightning (the PAP's symbol) or the hammer (the WP's symbol)," the 43-year-old, who is self-employed, said. "I'm glad Mr Chua comes to talk to us, he's friendly even to kids."
Mr Esa Ismail, 60, who is unemployed and had met Mr Chua to seek financial assistance earlier in the evening, said: "He and his group invite us to events that they have, and don't forget about us even though we're old."
With the electoral cycle nearly at its midpoint - polls must be held by January 2017 - the PAP has stepped up its engagement in the other wards in Aljunied GRC.
The Kaki Bukit ward also restarted its weekly MPS yesterday.
Former Aljunied GRC candidate and Keppel Corp's group strategy and development director Ong Ye Kung is the PAP branch chairman there, but SMRT deputy director for infrastructure Kahar Hassan has been spending time there meeting residents in recent weeks.
Kaki Bukit has a Malay representation of about 25 per cent, higher than the 14 per cent national average.
Mr Kahar told The Straits Times yesterday that he will also help Mr Chua in engaging and meeting Malay residents in Eunos.
"There's a high number of Malay residents in both Eunos and Kaki Bukit, so we've decided that I'll give as much time as possible in Eunos as well as continuing (duties) in Kaki Bukit."
This article was published on May 6 in The Straits Times.
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