These moves need to be seen in the context of the PAP's seeming withdrawal fromAljunied in the wake of its May defeat. Within a week of the election, the three seniorcandidates of the five-man team - former foreign minister George Yeo, formersecond minister for transport and finance Lim Hwee Hua and former senior ministerof state for foreign affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed - said they were leaving politics.That amounted to, as one PAP MP lamented, 'the generals deserting the troops aftera defeat'.Aljunied activists have since spoken of an urgent need for leadership among therank and file in the GRC, rudderless in the face of a myriad of challenges. Theserange from the logistical - run-ins with the Workers' Party's (WP) town council overthe use of estate facilities - to the existential - a cloud of rejection and resentmentover their lot as scapegoats in a national swing towards the opposition.Mr Lim's unexpected appearance in Aljunied is notable not only for any politicalmileage the former labour chief may clock but also for the signal it sends to theseembattled ground troops.Someone of his stature - a former PAP chairman who is widely liked and respectedwithin the party - is there to convey a message to these stalwarts: We have notforgotten you.
But it is unlikely that he will re-enter politics to lead the PAP's challenge in thenext election, due by 2016. For one thing, he will be pushing 70 then.
Mr Lim, part of the vanguard of an older PAP, is also not the candidate to win backAljunied GRC. His days at political centre stage predate the younger voters the rulingparty needs to win over.In fact, who to field in Aljunied at the next general election is a Catch-22 situation forthe ruling party.
A standard PAP GRC team - comprising at least one minister, one or two otheroffice-bearers and established backbenchers - would show that the rulingparty is sincere about the task.But it then runs the risk of losing even more top political talent: Mr Yeo'sreputation as one of the region's finest diplomats or Mrs Lim's status as thehighest- ranking woman in the Government gave few WP-leaning Aljuniedvoters pause.A 'suicide squad' of unknowns would be the less risky strategy. But voters areunlikely to reward such indifference.